What President Obama is Doing to Benefit Breast Cancer Victims
Last night, in an event of historic proportions, Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States. Now it’s time to assess where our next President stands on a number of cancer-related issues. Here are my top 10 ways the cancer community may potentially benefit during the upcoming Obama administration.
1) President-elect Obama signed the Congressional Cancer Promise in 2006. This “manifesto” from the Cancer Action Network, sister organization to the American Cancer Society, calls for a number of public policy initiatives with an overall goal of “eliminating suffering and death due to cancer by the year 2015.” The Promise notes that “While the 2015 goal is not one that can be reached with certainty… our past commitment to cancer research and programs has poised us to greatly accelerate progress toward a time when people live with cancer rather than die from it.”
2) President-elect Obama has been a long-time supporter of the Department of Defense peer-reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP), created in 1992 to increase federal funding for breast cancer research. Since then, the program has received $2.1 billion in federal funding. Highlights of this very well-regarded government program include:
•An emphasis on funding high-risk but especially promising ideas, thus giving creative, visionary researchers support early in their careers;
•Inclusion of consumer advocates in the grant review system, thus ensuring that money goes to research that will most directly benefit its end-users: cancer patients;
•A requirement for researchers to present their findings to their peers in public meetings, getting them away from the microscope, and out into the world. This encourages more “bench-to-bedside” research: research that quickly transitions from science to reality.
3) Have you ever heard of patient navigators? In cancer world, a patient navigator is a trained volunteer who helps cancer patients figure out their treatment, particularly those patients classified as underserved due to socioeconomic status, cultural or language barriers, or lack of health insurance.
Navigators ensure that patients are being given timely care. They can inform patients about possible participation in clinical trials; identify any barriers to treatment (lack of transportation, lack of child care), and address them; and identify community resources to help the patient. In short, patient navigators are the guiding hand that we all wish we had, when facing the blizzard of paperwork and overwhelming amount of details and decisions that cancer treatment entails.
The only funding currently going to the patient navigator program is through the American Cancer Society. The Obama-Biden health care reform platform supports federal funding of patient navigators.
4) President-elect Obama is a longtime supporter of the recently passed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a law that “prevents insurance companies from using information from genetic tests to restrict or deny coverage to individuals at risk from cancer and other diseases.” Worried that the results of your BRCA1 or BRCA2 tests would might deny you insurance… or a job? Worry no more, thanks to Obama and the rest of the bill’s supporters.
5) President-elect Obama is a co-sponsor of legislative bill S. 579: Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act of 2007. This bill would “amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to make grants for the development and operation of research centers regarding environmental factors that may be related to the etiology of breast cancer.”
Translation: this bill, if passed, will fund research into environmental factors that may play a role in breast cancer. You know all of those things you hear about that MIGHT be an underlying cause of breast cancer—plastic water bottles, perfume, barbecued beef? S. 579 will advance research around what is (and isn’t) a breast cancer risk factor in our everyday lives.
6) The Obama Cancer Plan will "double federal funding for cancer research within five years, focusing on NIH and NCI, and work with Congress to increase funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." This is good news indeed, considering the way cancer research funding has dried up over the past 8 years.
7) President-elect Obama has strongly supported the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, designed to increase access to (and improve the quality of) breast and cervical cancer screening, with its particular target low-income, uninsured, or underinsured women. Women who qualify have access to mammograms, clinical breast exams, further diagnostic screening when there’s suspected cancer, surgical consultations, and referral to treatment—all free of charge.
8) President-elect Obama says he'll prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. WOW; this is huge. How often have you stressed over having to change jobs and potentially losing your cancer-care coverage because cancer is a pre-existing condition? If Obama delivers on this promise—you’re safe.
9) President-elect Obama introduced in Congress the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, a law that would “support advances in personalized medicine to help ensure early detection and treatment of cancer and other diseases.”
Translation: Researchers know that your genes play a major role in whether or not you get cancer. Breast cancer researchers, in particular, are coming tantalizingly close to being able to predict, based on genetic analysis, which women are at high risk for breast cancer. This act, if signed into law, would help fund continuing research into this subject.
There are genes other than BRCA1 and BRCA2 causing breast cancer. Once they’re identified, potential ways to thwart these genes can be developed.
10) President-elect Obama’s mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995, at the age of 53. His wife, Michele, is 44, just heading into breast cancer “prime time.” He has two elementary-school daughters: Malia Ann, and Natasha (“Sasha”).
Will President Obama support what it takes to find a cure for breast cancer, for this disease that’s been killing wives and mothers and daughters and sisters—yes, and men, too—for thousands of years? I’d bet on it.
President-elect Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died of cancer on Sunday. A statement issued under the names of Obama and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said, "In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."