October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. From The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong to the Empire State Building, national monuments will be lit in pink to raise awareness.
Why is that necessary? Surely everyone is aware of breast cancer. We do it because one in eight women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. We do it because the key to beating breast cancer is early detection. We do it because breast cancer is the second-most diagnosed cancer in the US and the fifth leading cause of death among women. And we do it because there is no cure. Every donated cent gets us closer to the goal of a cancer-free world, but this must truly be a collaborative effort.
For all the talk of Congressional gridlock, there are areas where bipartisan cooperation not only occurs, it is common. And many of us on both sides of the aisle have worked hard to ensure that cancer awareness gets the attention it demands.
In the Senate, I joined my colleague Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to cosponsor the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). We know early detection is our best weapon in the fight against women’s cancers, and this program has given millions of disadvantaged women access to vitally important cancer screenings.
In 1998, Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) and I came together as original proponents of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp. Since then, more than 903 million stamps have been sold, raising over $72 million to fight breast cancer.
And in April, 2011, I introduced Senate Resolution 144, supporting early detection for breast cancer and calling on the Senate to remain committed to ensuring access to life-saving breast cancer screening and treatment. The following May, I again joined Senator Feinstein on the bipartisan Senate Cancer Coalition, to introduce a Senate Resolution designating May as National Cancer Research Month.
There has also been a tremendous role played by private and not-for-profit sectors. A good measure of the awareness-raising is due to the work by the Susan G Komen Foundation, which started the “Walk for the Cure” and which is responsible for the iconic pink ribbons. The foundation was started by Nancy Brinker after her sister, Susan Komen, died of breast cancer. Nancy promised to do everything she could to help ensure breast cancer never claimed another victim. The dedication of the Komen Foundation and its workers has increased awareness, which has led to more early detection and better survival rates and more research.
Breast cancer can hit anyone. Early detection is crucial, and self-examination and mammograms are key. And while there is no guaranteed prevention, there are some lifestyle habits that can lower risk, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking. Genetics can also play a part – ask your doctor for more information.
Finding a cure will take all hands on deck. Better treatment outcomes for women (and men) depend on awareness and investment. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I hope everyone will commit to steps that can increase early detection for themselves and their loved ones and give what they can to the national and international effort. As anyone whose life has been affected by breast cancer can attest, the possibility of a cure is worth every penny.
This column was written by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.