Blaine’s Bulletin: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Susan G. Komen Foundation projects that over 260,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Here in Missouri, breast cancer has the fourth highest incidence and mortality rate of all cancers, and it claims more women’s lives than any other form of cancer except for skin cancer. Education, early detection and regular screenings are critical for staying healthy and potentially saving lives. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to raise awareness about prevention, cheer on our family, friends, and neighbors who are bravely fighting the disease, and remember those we have tragically lost to it.

This year especially, it is more critical than ever to raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection. I sit on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis which gives me the opportunity to speak with dozens of medical professionals about both COVID related and non-COVID related health risks. We have heard over and over again from the nation’s health experts about the unintended consequences of the nationwide shutdowns. Many Americans have been unable to visit the doctor for critical medical services like heart surgeries and chemotherapy treatments because of the virus. Most recently in our subcommittee, we heard from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar who testified about even more medical services people have forgone due to the shutdowns. People aren’t getting CAT scans or even going to the hospital when they have a heart attack or stroke, and millions of children haven’t gotten their pediatric vaccinations. One of the scariest facts we’ve learned is that mammograms are down 87%. That is a reduction of hundreds of thousands of mammograms this year. That is hundreds of thousands of lives at risk due to lost access to medical services, which means the fight against breast cancer is as serious as ever.  

Fortunately, passed years have given us great cause to be hopeful. While the numbers of breast cancer diagnoses have remained consistent since 2004, the mortality rate is declining. From 1989 to 2017, the mortality rate for breast cancer has gone down 40%. Screenings and treatments have improved drastically over the years and with early detection and proper care, the chances are surviving breast cancer are better than ever. 

The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 45-54 should be getting annual mammograms but can start as early at 40. Access to mammograms for all women is something that is extremely important to me and the reason I continue to push for support for “mammovans,” mobile mammography stations, in Congress. My bill would allow these vehicles to purchase fuel without federal excise tax and lower their operating costs so they can reach women everywhere – especially those in underserved and rural communities who may not otherwise have access to a mammogram. With tens of thousands of Missourians at risk, every extra mile and every extra stop a mammovan makes can save lives.

It is estimated that we will lose 850 women in Missouri to breast cancer in 2020. Please use this month to remember the loved ones we’ve lost, share the importance of early detection and screenings with your family and friends, and look for ways you can join the fight against cancer.