Congresswoman Kathy Castor, working to eliminate disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, advocated her bill today during a significant hearing on the Subcommittee on Health. The Eliminating Disparities in Breast Cancer Treatment Act of 2009 will create incentives and requirements for adequate care for all women, regardless of race, income or health insurance status.
"In order to eliminate unacceptable gaps in treatment quality, it is necessary that we create real incentives and requirements for doctors to provide the best care," Castor said. "All patients should receive the best treatment for their conditions. We must continue to use all of our expertise and modern tools to fight this brutal killer and improve diagnoses and improve treatment. It will save lives, it will save money, and it will save in heartache."
Castor's bill was one of only four bills on breast cancer prevention, research, treatment and quality of care that was considered during today's hearing, held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death from cancer among American women, and African-American and Hispanic women are disproportionately affected. African-American women are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer as white women. Hispanic women are 1.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has found that Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Hispanic women.
The disparity is linked in large part to the lack of early detection. In addition, African-American women are less likely to receive a screening to see if their cancer has spread to underarm lymph nodes. This screening is critical in preventing the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Furthermore, sometimes there are delays in treatment after a diagnosis.
Castor's bill is designed to standardize health care practices for breast cancer patients and to eliminate inequities in treatment. The bill requires providers -- doctors, hospitals -- to report their practices and ensures that doctors aren't compensated for inadequate care.
"Patients should not worry that they will not receive the treatment they need if they don't ask for it directly," Castor said. "This bill will reduce the wide variation in care that exists from patient to patient. It will save lives and increase patients' confidence in their treatment."