Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: June 6, 2005
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleagues Senators SPECTER and HARKIN to introduce The Gynecological Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2005, also known as Johanna's Law. This important legislation authorizes a national gynecologic cancer early detection and awareness campaign for women and their providers. This bill is named in honor of Johanna Silver Gordon who died from ovarian cancer and whose sister, Sheryl Silver, founded Johanna's Law Alliance for Women's Cancer Awareness. We thank Ms. Silver for her courage and her persistent efforts to turn her sister's tragedy into a crusade to raise awareness and prevent needless suffering and death from gynecologic cancers for other women.

Nearly 80,000 American women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancers each year. Tragically, 29,000 of them die from this disease. We know that early detection is the key to successful treatment of all gynecologic cancers, and we have made great strides at reducing rates of cervical cancer with wide-spread use of Pap screening tests. Yet, we have not been able to replicate this success with uterine cancer and ovarian cancer, for which effective and general screening methods do not exist. For ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, in addition to lack of screening tests, doctors and researchers have not identified effective diagnostic and treatments. Seventy percent of all new diagnoses of ovarian cancer take place after this cancer has progressed beyond its earliest and most survivable stage.

Given these challenges, knowing the symptoms of gynecologic cancers, which can mimic GI illnesses, menopause or perimenopause, is key to early diagnosis. The 5-year survival rates for the most common gynecologic cancers are 90 percent when diagnosed early, but drop to 50 percent for cancers diagnosed later.

Johanna's Law will promote early detection and awareness through a National Public Awareness Campaign conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Women will be given written materials that provide information about gynecologic cancers, and Public Service Announcements will be developed to encourage women to talk to their doctors about gynecologic cancer. The Department will also give grants for demonstration projects to local and national non-profit organizations to identify the best ways to reach and educate women about these cancers, particularly those women who are high risk.

Johanna's Law will make sure that women and doctors get the information they need to help them recognize early symptoms of gynecologic cancers, so that women can be diagnosed and treated earlier when their cancers are treatable. I urge my colleagues to work to move this legislation forward promptly.

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