Blaine's Bulletin: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Too many Americans know firsthand how devastating breast cancer can be. Whether it is your mother, sister, wife, aunt, cousin, daughter or friend, everyone can name someone who has courageously fought against this horrifying disease. Since 1985, October has been recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  This month provides an opportunity to increase awareness of the disease while educating women across the nation on the importance of early detection.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. Sadly, according to the American Cancer Society, 40,920 American women will die from breast cancer in 2018. This year we expect 5,160 new breast cancer diagnoses in Missouri, alone.

The key to defeating breast cancer is early detection and treatment. The most reliable way to find breast cancer early, when it is small and has not spread, is by getting regular screening tests. For women with an average risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends women aged 45 to 54 get mammograms every year, with the option to start screening every year beginning at age 40.

Regular screening remains the most important strategy to prevent death from breast cancer, yet only 70% of Missouri women aged 40 and older got a mammogram in 2016. A large reason for that is due to the lack of access to prevention and screening services, particularly in rural America. This healthcare disparity creates a huge challenge for women in our district and across the country as we fight breast cancer.

Last year, I introduced the Mobile Mammography Promotion Act. My bill expands access to preventative care in rural communities by supporting mobile mammography units, often called “mammovans.” Specifically, this legislation would allow mammovans, many of which are supported by non-profit organizations and private donations, to provide vital services in underserved areas tax-free. A similar exemption is already provided to blood collection centers under current law. Mobile mammography units travel thousands of miles each year to provide mammograms and other services that help prevent and treat medical challenges facing women, so we must do everything we can to ensure they stay in service.

We have 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and if we continue to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment, millions more will successfully fight the disease. This October, I hope you will urge your loved ones, your mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, cousins, daughters, and friends to educate themselves on the importance of regular breast cancer screenings as we continue on the path toward eliminating cancer for good.