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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SPECTER (for himself, Ms. STABENOW, and Mr. MENENDEZ):

S. 3493. A bill to reauthorize and enhance Johanna's Law to increase public awareness and knowledge with respect to gynecologic cancers; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition today to introduce The Gynecological Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2010 also known as Johanna's Law.

Every year, over 80,000 women in the United States are newly diagnosed with some form of gynecologic cancer such as ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer. In 2009, 28,000 American women are estimated to have died from these cancers.

Early detection of these cancers must be improved to decrease this tragic loss of life. Unfortunately, thousands of women in the U.S. each year aren't diagnosed until their cancers have progressed to more advanced and far less treatable stages. In the case of ovarian cancer, which kills more women in the U.S. than all other gynecologic cancers combined, more than 40 percent of all new diagnoses take place after this cancer has progressed beyond its earliest and most survivable stage.

Women are often diagnosed many months, sometimes more than a year after they first experience symptoms due to a lack of knowledge of early warning signs of gynecological cancers. Adding to the challenge of a prompt and accurate diagnosis is the similarity of gynecological cancer symptoms to those of more common gastrointestinal conditions and benign gynecologic conditions such as perimenopause and menopause. Women too often receive diagnoses reflecting these benign conditions without their physicians having first considered gynecologic cancers as a possible cause of the symptoms.

The Gynecological Cancer Education and Awareness Act has improved early detection of gynecologic cancers by creating a national awareness and an education outreach campaign to inform physicians and individuals of the risk factors and symptoms of these diseases. When gynecological cancer is detected in its earliest stage, patients 5-year survival rates are greater than 90 percent and many go on to live normal, healthy lives.

The national awareness campaign has been carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, to increase women's awareness and knowledge of gynecologic cancers. The campaign has maintained and distributed a supply of written materials that provide information to the public about gynecologic cancers. Further, the program has developed public service announcements encouraging women to discuss their risks for gynecologic cancers with their physicians, and inform the public about the availability of written materials and how to obtain them. The cost of continuing this awareness campaign is $5.5 million per year from 2010-2012, totaling $16.5 million.

The educational outreach campaign will be carried out through demonstration grants through HHS. These demonstration grants will go to local and national non-profits to test different outreach and education strategies, including those directed at providers, women, and their families. Groups with demonstrated expertise in gynecologic cancer education, treatment, or in working with groups of women who are at especially high risk will be given priority. Grant funding recipients will also be asked to work in cooperation with health providers, hospitals, and state health departments. The projected cost of the educational outreach campaign is $5 million per year from 2010-2012, totaling $15 million.

This legislation was brought to my attention by my friend Fran Drescher, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000 and whose diagnosis was also delayed due to her lack of knowledge about symptoms of this disease. She has recovered from uterine cancer and is advocating on behalf of gynecological cancer awareness. She also brought to my attention one of the many victims of gynecological cancers, Johanna Silver Gordon, after whom this bill is named, who was diagnosed at an advanced stage of ovarian cancer.

Johanna, the daughter and sister of physicians, was extremely health conscious taking the appropriate measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle including exercising regularly, eating nutritiously, and receiving annual pap smears and pelvic exams. Johanna however did not have the information to know that the gastric symptoms she experienced in the fall of 1996 were common symptoms of ovarian cancer. She didn't learn these crucial facts until after she was diagnosed at an advanced stage of this cancer. Despite aggressive treatment that included four surgeries, various types of chemotherapy, and participation in two clinical trials, Johanna died from ovarian cancer 3 1/2 years after being diagnosed. Johanna is survived by her sister Sheryl Silver who has tirelessly worked to increase the information available regarding gynecological cancers.

As former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I led, along with Senator Harkin, the effort to double funding for the National Institutes of Health, NIH, over 5 years. Funding for the NIH has increased from $12 billion in fiscal year 1995 to $27 billion in fiscal year 2003. In 2004, the NIH, through the National Cancer Institute provided $243 million for gynecological cancer research. We must continue this growth to gain more information about gynecological cancers so that we can find a cure for this cancer.

I believe this bill can provide desperately needed information to physicians and individuals so that women can be diagnosed faster and more effectively. I urge my colleagues to move this legislation forward promptly.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD


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