FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. Senators and Reps Introduce Bipartisan Breast Cancer Treatment Bill
Lifetime Network Instrumental in Raising Awareness and Building Support
(Washington, D.C.) -- U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) and Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) and U.S. Representatives Sue Kelly (R-NY) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced legislation to ensure that all breast cancer patients receive appropriate medical treatment. The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005 would improve access to second opinions, lumpectomy, radiation therapy, and inpatient care so that women are not forced to undergo medically unnecessary mastectomies or settle for insufficient treatment. More than 10 million Lifetime viewers have voiced their support for this legislation by signing a petition at lifetimetv.com as part of the network's Stop Breast Cancer for Life advocacy campaign.
"At some point in their lives, nearly every American will have a family member or friend who battles breast cancer," said Snowe. "Our bipartisan legislation, introduced in the Senate and the House, empowers women and their doctors to make treatment decisions based on need, not short-term cost. The stress of a cancer diagnosis is debilitating. But to compound that stress, to leave a woman with the knowledge that she must undergo a disfiguring procedure due only to her financial position, is unconscionable."
"It is time for lawmakers to take a stand to ensure that women who suffer from breast cancer receive the care they need to survive," said Landrieu. "Buoyed by the committed efforts of Lifetime TV, patients' advocates and concerned individuals from around the country, Senator Snowe and I are working diligently in the Senate to build upon past bipartisan support and pass this legislation. It will go a long way toward protecting the rights of breast cancer patients in their most vulnerable times."
"We need to do everything possible to make life easier for a woman as she copes with the fear and reality of breast cancer," said Kelly. "This bill will help put some necessary treatment and coverage requirements in place to ensure women are not forced to fight breast cancer and red-tape at the same time. We have joined together in a very important and cohesive effort to help relieve some anxiety for breast cancer patients during their time of greatest need."
"I first supported this legislation after a breast cancer surgeon in Connecticut came to me, concerned that women are forced to go home from the hospital before they are physically or emotionally ready," said DeLauro. "This bipartisan, common-sense legislation would put medical decisions back where they belong - between patients and their doctors. It has been propelled in the 109th Congress by the bipartisan, bicameral support of my colleagues and the grassroots momentum generated by Lifetime TV."
Today a woman in the United States has a 1 in 7 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in America and just this year, over 216,000 women will receive a life-altering diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. Yet current standards of health care coverage have created a situation in which thousands of women have undergone mastectomies needlessly, and women have even undergone such critical surgery as an outpatient -- the "drive through mastectomy" -- to be sent home without critical support for their recovery.
The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005 addresses these problems through creation of a set of crucial measures to ensure appropriate treatment. The legislation assures that reasonable inpatient care will be provided when a woman undergoes invasive treatment for breast cancer. This bill further removes the coverage inequities which cause many women to undergo surgery that might not be the most appropriate for them.
The bill's protections for those facing breast cancer include:
* A second opinion. This legislation assures a patient of a second opinion for any cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis must be reliable.
* Inpatient coverage. The legislation provides that a health care provider cannot limit hospital stays for mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery to less than 48 hours, and also assures a 24 hour stay for lymph node dissection. While some patients may choose a shorter stay, this choice should be one in which doctor and patient concur. No woman should be forced to undergo invasive treatment on an outpatient basis.
* Support for lumpectomy treatment. This bill requires coverage for radiation therapy for patients undergoing lumpectomy. Together with the assurance of inpatient care, this Act removes the economic incentive for a woman to select mastectomy simply to reduce the immediate cost of treatment.
This bill will not only provide a higher standard of care, but will achieve long term cost savings as well. Lumpectomy followed by radiation is the preferable treatment for most women with early-stage breast cancer - but many women have undergone mastectomy because a lack of coverage -- yet the costs of breast reconstruction are often not considered. In fact, the finding that breast implants often entail additional surgeries and may pose health additional risks demonstrates one reason why long term costs are greater for mastectomy. Yet thousands continue to be subjected to unnecessary surgeries. This legislation will remedy this problem, and ensure women receive the most appropriate treatment to preserve their health.