In the United States, it is estimated that more than 40,000 women and 440 men will die of breast cancer this year. Over the past few decades, this nation has invested billions of dollars in breast cancer research and technology, but the statistics have not changed significantly. We continue to lose the women (and men) we love to this dreadful disease.
As a breast cancer advocate on the national, state and local levels in Maine, I believe in the power of public policy action. There is a bill in Congress called the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, that would go a long way toward ending this disease once and for all. It focuses on identifying strategies for the primary prevention of breast cancer and identifying methods to prevent breast cancer metastasis, or the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Metastasis is responsible for more than 90 percent of breast cancer deaths.
The bill is bipartisan, not controversial, does not require additional federal funding and will accelerate the progress already made toward ending breast cancer. In the House of Representatives, the bill has 272 bipartisan co-sponsors. That means that 272 members of the chamber say they want this bill to become law. It is unheard of to see such strong bipartisan support in today’s political climate. Does their word mean anything? Despite the strong show of bipartisan support, the bill is currently being held up. Although it has the support needed, it has not been moved to the floor for a vote despite the best efforts of breast cancer advocates from all over the U.S. — including me.
I applaud the congressional leaders from Maine for their willingness to come alongside our work on this bill. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree have all become co-sponsors of the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act in their respective chambers. I want to continue to urge them to reach out to their colleagues to help get the bill moved to the House floor for a vote so that it can pass.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, has the power and authority to send the bill to the full House for a vote, and a majority of the House Energy and Commerce Committee already supports this legislation.
I do not want our daughters and granddaughters to have to face breast cancer. Awareness is simply not enough. We need this bill so future generations can live without fear of dying from the disease. Why won’t Congress act? The people of Maine are watching, and we are running out of time.
Bethany Zell is president of the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition and program director for Pink Aroostook. She lives in Caribou.