How Did YOUR Members of Congress Rate on Breast Cancer Last Year?

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Fran Visco.

Elected officials, local, state, and federal, are usually willing to show up to cut the ribbon at the opening of the local breast center or to pin on a pink lapel ribbon to show support. But those things do little to move us forward to getting important answers about breast cancer. You know that breast cancer is a political issue - not just a scientific and medical one.

And there are laws and policies that have been well thought out and have the support of trained advocates across the country. We need to know where our political leaders stand on THOSE issues. Especially on election day, when your congressional Representative or U.S. Senator asks for your support for another term. We must demand they are accountable and the best way to do that is to ask them to support meaningful policies.

Earlier this month the National Breast Cancer Coalition released our interim 2007 Congressional Record of Support for NBCC's Priorities, something we do every year. It includes Members' votes and actions on NBCC's four policy priorities. You will be interested in knowing that 144 Members of the House and 50 Senators -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- achieved a "100%" record in 2007, by taking all actions NBCC requested on two of our four policies and priorities: funding of a $150 million for the Department of Defense (DOD) peer-reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP); and enactment of the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act (H.R.1157/S.579), which would establish a national strategy for investigating the impact of environmental factors on the development of breast cancer. I have told you about both these initiatives in past columns, and why they are so important to NBCC.

Now some of these individuals may have come on very late because they knew this report was coming out, but that discussion is for another day.

In 2007, two of NBCC's legislative and policy priorities did not require legislative action. These are: guaranteed access to quality health care for all; and preservation of the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (MBCCTP), which provides Medicaid coverage to low-income, uninsured women screened and diagnosed with breast cancer through a federal program. If you look at some past NBCC Records of Congressional Support, you will notice that taking action on MBCCTP was an important legislative priority. In the future, we may be asking lawmakers to take action on guaranteed access to health care.

NBCC is committed to educating voters about breast cancer. It is very easy for someone to say, "Of course, I support women with breast cancer." But the Record quantifies it by measuring the actions and true intentions of our elected officials. It is one piece of evidence we can use to determine if they really mean what they say.

So please - take a moment to review the Record. Find your Member of Congress and your Senators. How did they do? If your Members got a score of 100 percent, take a few moments to call them or send an email, thanking them for their support. And if they did poorly, send them an email too, and ask them why. Do not be shy: they work for you, after all.