Q. What is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
A. October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since 1985. During October, many organizations, such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society, hold rallies, walks, and other events to raise breast cancer awareness and funds to fight breast cancer.
Q. Has breast cancer affected you personally?
A. Yes. In 1985, when October was first designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, breast cancer wasn't talked about as much as it is today. I admit I didn't know much about breast cancer until two years later, when my wife, Barbara, was diagnosed with breast cancer. We're lucky, she's a 23-year survivor. The five-year survival rate for U.S. women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer -- the most serious type of breast cancer -- in 1987 was 86.2 percent. The most recent National Cancer Institute survival statistics -- which are from 2002 -- show the five-year survival rate for U.S. women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at 90.6 percent.
Q. What can increase the chances of survival?
A. Early detection greatly increases the chances of survival and treatment options. Advanced breast cancer usually requires more aggressive treatment methods. Many health care professionals recommend that all women conduct breast self-exams once a month, have their health care provider perform a clinical breast exam once a year, and have regular mammograms.
Q. Breast cancer only affects women, right?
A. Wrong. Even though men have less breast tissue than women, they do have breast cells that can undergo cancerous changes. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases involve men. When breast cancer is detected in men, the man is usually between 60 and 70 years old.
Q. What have you done, and what can I do, to fight breast cancer?
A. Every year I participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to help raise money for breast cancer research and awareness. Earlier this month, Barbara gave a lecture to University of Northern Iowa students and staff about breast cancer awareness and her experience.
I was a co-sponsor of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000, which allowed states to make breast and cervical cancer-related treatment services available to certain low-income individuals. This act was signed into law by President Clinton on October 24, 2000.
I also co-sponsored the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act. This act authorized grants for public or nonprofit private entities to conduct collaborative multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research on environmental factors that may be related to the origins of breast cancer. It was signed into law by President Bush on December 21, 2007.
Additionally, I have voted for bills designed to help breast cancer patients get access to treatment, and in favor of extending the use of the breast cancer research postage stamp, which funds breast cancer research, many times in the U.S. Senate.
There are breast cancer awareness events all over Iowa each October. Please visit http://www.nbcam.org, http://www.koman.org/, or http://www.cancer.org/ to find an event in your area that you can attend, volunteer for, or donate to.