Political Questions from a Breast Cancer Survivor
Expert Patient PJ Hamel, a breast cancer survivor, offers seven questions to Lance Armstrong and the presidential candidates participating in the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum.
1) If you choose to make cancer a focal point of your health care agenda, it will certainly please voters who've had experience with this illness. But what about voters whose health issue is heart disease, diabetes, or any of a number of other conditions more prevalent than cancer? Do you risk alienating those voters by not addressing their concerns in as strong a voice?
Why this is important: It's all about the votes. Only if they think they can parlay cancer support into more votes than, say, support for cardiovascular research, will it truly become a focus.
2) Have any of you had personal or family experience with cancer? How has this experience (or lack of) helped position cancer on your national health care agenda?
Why this is important: Because I'd like to hear candidates admit to their humanity (or indicate their lack thereof) by talking about how cancer has affected them personally and admitting that this has helped shape their agenda.
3) Tommy Thompson called for a multi-pronged, grassroots approach to eradicating breast cancer by 2015, proposing to gather recommendations for research funding from a team of doctors, nurses, researchers, and breast cancer patients. What pros and cons do you see to this approach?
Why this is important: To the average voter, this sounds like a good idea, although rather disingenuous. I'd like to hear how the other candidates respond to an idea that no doubt produced a positive reaction in a number of voters, but that wasn't generated in their camp.
4) If you would make cancer prevention/treatment/cure a top priority, why? Of the major health issues in America, cancer seems to be the one farthest from being solved, with few clear, proven preventive measures, and still relatively little information about what causes it. Why not focus on issues that affect more people and are closer to a solution?
Why this is important: Are their proposals to reform health care "equal opportunity," with funding for all? Or would they spend money where it could have the most immediate effect-e.g., universal screening of middle aged/older Americans for cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes?
5) To what degree do you think your plan would fund increased cancer research? Describe where the funding could come from, both short- and long-term.
Why this is important: Here's where the rubber meets the road. Where will the money come from?
6) How would you approach the issue of funding for clinical trials? Currently, NIH funds only about 25% of clinical trials, with the remainder funded by the drug companies, foundations, and universities. Are you comfortable that this funding ratio will produce the best, most reliable results?
Why this is important: How will they address this issue, considering the financial clout of Big Pharm? How willing are they to indicate the results of drug company clinical trials may be skewed?
7) Describe the main provisions of the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, and the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.
Why this is important: Just to see who's paying attention and/or who has the best support staff.
For more on Lance Armstrong's cancer forum, visit our special section:
The Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum, hosted by Lance Armstrong and Chris Matthews, will take place on August 27 and 28 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It will be live streamed on MSNBC.com. "Hardball with Chris Matthews" will telecast live from the site. You can submit questions for the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum at msnbc.com.