Q&A: Breast cancer awareness

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Q: Why is it important to promote breast cancer awareness?


A: Consider the fact that one in eight females born today in the United States will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. That effectively means this disease will impact every single American, in every neighborhood and every household in this country. The National Cancer Institute estimates about 266,120 new cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2018 and 40,920 women will die from breast cancer by the end of the year.


October was designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness month to coordinate greater awareness about this disease. It's an opportunity to educate individuals and families about early detection and prevention. As the second most common cancer among American women, second only to skin cancer, I encourage Iowans to motivate the busy women in your lives to slow down and take a moment. Make sure they make an appointment to talk to their medical provider about breast cancer. Early detection lowers the risk of dying from this disease. My wife Barbara is a 31-year cancer survivor. She is among more than 3 million women living in the United States with a history of breast cancer. Our family gives thanks every single day that her diagnosis was caught early enough for lifesaving treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises women ages 40-49 to talk to one’s medical providers about when to start screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises women ages 50-74 years old to get a screening mammogram every two years. The CDC reports three factors that most influence risk for breast cancer: females (although note the American Cancer Society estimates 2,550 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed this year and account for 480 breast cancer deaths); age – most breast cancers are found in women age 50 and older; and genetic traits. However, it's also very important to point out that most women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease.


Q: What measures in Congress have you supported for breast cancer research?


A:  As elected members of the people's branch, lawmakers have the closest connection to "We the People." The founders wisely gave Congress authority of the purse strings because lawmakers are tasked with spending decisions that affect taxpayers. As a taxpayer watchdog, I work to make sure tax dollars are spent as intended. Medical research is a high priority for millions of Americans, including my constituents in Iowa, many of whom urgently hope and pray for healing and a cure for loved ones diagnosed with life-threatening diseases and chronic medical conditions. The federal expenditures for cancer care in the U.S. in 2017 reached $147.3 billion according to the National Cancer Institute. Congress passed the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 as a reflection of this national priority to make public investments in innovation, medical science and research to accelerate treatments and cures for the American people.

Congress included a $2 billion spending boost for the National Institutes of Health within the fiscal 2018 spending bill. On the table this year is an additional $2 billion, including an additional $190 million dedicated to the National Cancer Institute. The spending bump will continue driving investment and my efforts to advance effective, accountable and measurable progress to prevent and treat breast cancer. In addition, in a separate action, I will continue to support the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. It is the mission of this program to end breast cancer by developing better treatments and preventative measures. This research program has already had several successes that have expedited the development of some of the current treatments for breast cancer.

During this Congress, I also am co-sponsoring the bipartisan Lymphedema Treatment Act with Senator Maria Cantwell that would provide for Medicare coverage of certain lymphedema compression therapies, a progressive condition that can be caused by cancer treatments, putting survivors at risk of infection, disability and other complications. I'm also co-sponsoring the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act to reduce regulatory barriers and encourage federal research into the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol for medical purposes, such as treating side effects of chemotherapy.

Like thousands of Iowa families, Barbara's breast cancer diagnosis and recovery reinforces the need for awareness, education and outreach. Since her diagnosis three decades ago, the number of women who have died from breast cancer is steadily decreasing, attributable to early detection and advances in treatment. From my position in the U.S. Senate, I will continue working with patient advocates, survivors, caregivers and the medical community to marshal our nation's resources to find cures and treatments that save lives.