This October, our nation highlights and celebrates the progress being made in breast cancer detection, treatment, and research as we mark Breast Cancer Awareness month. More importantly, this month is an opportunity for us to honor the breast cancer survivors in our lives, as well as offer encouragement and support to those battling this disease. I invite you to join with me as I reaffirm my commitment to women's health by supporting policies and funding for early detection and prevention of this far-reaching disease.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and we are making significant progress in detection that is indeed saving many lives. Since Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created in 1985, the rate of mammograms has more than doubled for women aged 50 and older, and breast cancer deaths are on the decline. The program has grown into a partnership that vigorously promotes education as a tool to empower women to practice regular self exams, get mammograms as recommended, and talk with their doctors about best practices for early detection and treatment.
In Congress, I am also working for breast cancer patients to help them overcome some of the obstacles they may face. It was an important milestone when Congress passed the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA), and it provided for protections for those who elect to have reconstructive surgery in connection with a mastectomy. Under WHCRA, health insurers provide coverage for breast surgery and reconstruction for those who undergo medically-necessary breast mastectomies and for the treatment of complications, such as lymphedema. While this was critical for women's health, Medicare does not reimburse for such coverage, and that is why I am a co-sponsor of the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act, which would provide similar coverage under Medicare. It is the right thing to do.
As a member of the House Cancer Caucus, I have long been a staunch advocate for bringing cancer awareness to the forefront and investing in cancer research. I am pleased to say that North Carolina is home to three of the nation's 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Duke Cancer Institute, UNC's Lineberger Center, and Wake Forest's Baptist Medical Center are award-winning institutions leading the way in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Rest assured that I will continue working to ensure that women have the access to the services and care they need in the fight against cancer