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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


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Every year, breast cancer affects tens of thousands of women throughout the United States, and the chance of a woman contracting this disease in her lifetime is one in eight. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it's a time to be reminded about the importance of cancer screening and prevention.

As a child, my wife Wendy lost her mother to this disease. Her loss serves as a constant reminder of how important it is to increase early detection and preventive screenings, and expand access to care for this disease that affects so many of our family, friends and neighbors.

The most recent data from the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2011 more than 230,000 cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed, and of that number, 40,000 women would ultimately lose their lives. So many of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, which is all the more reason to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I've been working on several initiatives in Congress to fight the disease, like my legislation to expand access to mobile mammography services. This would help provide more on-site mammograms to women in both urban and rural areas that may not currently receive screenings and preventive care. We could give thousands more women a fighting chance to combat this terrible disease through early detection.

I was alarmed by recommendations from the Obama administration's U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that actually proposed fewer mammograms for women. Prevention is absolutely crucial in the battle against breast cancer, so last Congress; I successfully introduced and passed an amendment to stop these recommendations from being used to deny coverage of mammograms to women. There's ample evidence to support the benefit that many receive from early-detection screenings, and it makes no sense to limit their access to a vital tool in the fight against this terrible disease.

In recent years I fought against the Food and Drug Administration's move to take the drug Avastin "off-label." Avastin is a treatment for metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer, but the FDA essentially took the medicine off the table as an option for breast cancer patients. Avastin has shown to extend the life of metastatic breast cancer patients for months, and that's why I fought the FDA to explain why they wanted to take this proven life-extending option away from the 17,500 women who depend on it in their fight against cancer. For those battling terminal cancer, every additional day that they can beat the disease and extend their time with their loved ones is valuable and treasured.

I'll continue working on these and other issues to make sure that women battling breast cancer aren't denied access to life-saving screenings or treatment that may extend their lives and their time with loved ones.

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