Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings attention to the 226,000 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer annually, the thousands who have lost their battle to the disease, and the strong community of survivors and their families. As many may know, my wife Barbara is a breast cancer survivor and I am a prostate cancer survivor. Through our personal experiences, cancer prevention, detection and treatment have become issues that strike particularly close to home.
This month is an opportunity to highlight how far we have come in understanding breast cancer risk factors, increasing access to early detection, expanding treatment options, and improving survival rates. It is also a reminder for women to take time for their health and discuss appropriate screening options with their health provider.
I was proud to support health reform, which has already begun to address some of the obstacles that had forced far too many women to make health decisions based on their finances and not on what was best for their health. Insurance companies must now cover preventive screenings free of cost-sharing, including mammograms, and cannot impose caps on annual or lifetime health benefits. Additionally, premiums cannot be higher simply because you are a woman. Beginning in 2014, you cannot be denied health coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, such as breast cancer.
With all of the critical research and prevention efforts taking place here in South Dakota, it's also important to recognize the significant federal commitments that have made these efforts possible. Biomedical research funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been the backbone of breast cancer research nationally. The Breast Cancer Research Program at the Department of Defense has funded competitive, peer-reviewed research grants for over two decades. Through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program ensures underserved women in all 50 states have access to early screening services. I am a long-time supporter of efforts to increase funding for these vital programs.
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women. We know we are making strides against this disease; the breast cancer diagnosis rate and the overall breast cancer death rate have both decreased. But we have more work to do.
October is a good time to remind the women in our lives to take care of their health through early detection.
As we continue waging the battle against breast cancer together, I remain committed to increased funding for prevention and medical research programs and working to ensure breast cancer patients have access to the health care services they need.