Leaders of the congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus organized a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, to highlight prevention and treatment of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Speaking is Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., and standing to her left is breast cancer survivor Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. (Samantha Dietel/States Newsroom)
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress shared their experiences and called for bipartisan legislative action Thursday in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Leaders of the congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus organized a press conference to highlight prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
“Each one of us here today are tributes to our friends, our loved ones, our family members who have fought and some that have survived, and unfortunately some have not,” said U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, a Florida Republican and co-chair of the women’s caucus.
Cammack said that during the pandemic, many women postponed or canceled preventive screenings for breast cancer, which has now created a backlog of patients seeking care.
She encouraged women everywhere to get screened for breast cancer, as early detection is “critical.”
In the U.S., breast cancer is the second-most-common cancer among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her lifetime, which we’re seeing earlier and earlier, younger and younger — it’s about 13%, or 1 in 8,” Cammack said.
Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and breast cancer survivor, also said that early detection “is the key to survival.”
She said that if she had not been aware enough to practice a self-examination and recognize that “something felt different,” she potentially “would not be standing in front of you today.”
‘A bipartisan path’
The representatives widely advocated for bipartisanship in their search for solutions to combat breast cancer.
U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, an Ohio Democrat and vice chair of the women’s caucus, said it is important “to find a bipartisan path.”
“This is not a red issue,” said Rep. Monica De La Cruz, a Texas Republican and vice chair of the women’s caucus. “It’s not a blue issue. This is a red, white and blue issue for all American women.”
De La Cruz said representatives must “come together and support each other in this cause for bringing awareness, supporting research and diagnosis, and supporting the family of those women who are suffering from breast cancer.”
Prevention, treatment and recovery
Sykes said it is necessary to increase access to quality, affordable care, affordable prevention, early detection and treatment options.
Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said that “too many women of color in particular” are dying because they are not aware of opportunities to have early breast cancer detection.
Sykes said Black women are more than 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
“And these incredible obstacles that prevent us from getting the screening, and the preventative care and the treatment are abysmal, startling and just plain wrong,” Sykes said.
Sykes referenced her support for the Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act. This bill would help improve accessibility for early detection cancer screenings.
Wasserman Schultz re-introduced legislation in March that would also improve accessibility to cancer screenings. Under the Reducing Hereditary Cancer Act, genetic testing would also be covered under Medicare.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an Iowa Republican, co-sponsored that legislation.
“We want to make sure that women know that there is prevention, that there is treatment, and that there is recovery,” said Miller-Meeks, who lost her aunt and sister to breast cancer.
Miller-Meeks, who is an ophthalmologist, also noted her service as the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. She said there have been a number of advancements in prevention, treatment and recovery.
“All of our portfolio that we have to treat breast cancer has dramatically changed … and that includes genetic testing as well,” Miller-Meeks said.
In terms of recovery, Miller-Meeks said possible avenues for women may include breast reconstruction or other devices.
She said there is legislation in Congress “on all of those issues.”
Cammack said the representatives are “united in the fight against breast cancer.”
“This truly is an epidemic that we need to confront head on,” Cammack said.
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