Guest column: Urge congress to support breast cancer access to care bill
Sunday was National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, held annually on Oct. 13. A day meant to bring understanding to the most serious form of the disease. Many people do not realize that breast cancer itself does not become deadly until it spreads to other parts of the body, most often the lungs, brain, liver and bones. Metastatic breast cancer (MBC or Stage IV) is not a specific type of breast cancer but rather the most advanced stage, 90% of breast cancer deaths are a direct result of metastatic disease. Thirty percent of those diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to be diagnosed with MBC, that is one in three early stage survivors will become terminal. One hundred and sixteen individuals die of MBC each and every day.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition initiated the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act and it remains one of our highest legislative priorities this year. This legislation will waive the 24-month waiting period for Medicare eligibility and the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for individuals with MBC. The life expectancy for those diagnosed with MBC is three years.
With the onerous waiting periods for Medicare and SSDI, men and women with MBC are just not living long enough to receive treatments that may give them more time with their loved ones, pain management and end-of-life support that they deserve. This bill goes a long way to assure that women and men living with MBC have access to the support and medical care they need. This important legislation would provide individuals with MBC who already qualify for SSDI immediate access to their benefits.
The bill currently has 121 Congressional co-sponsors, including our incredibly supportive S.C. Congressmen Joe Wilson, Joe Cunningham and Ralph Norman.
I am working with other elected S.C. officials in Washington, including Congressmen Jeff Duncan, William Timmons, James Clyburn and Tom Rice, and also Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to garner their blessing and support for this legislation.
Would you kindly join me and reach out to our elected officials in Washington and ask them to consider co-sponsoring the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act and support those with MBC who are navigating their terminal journeys. We need our representatives in Washington to be accountable to the breast cancer community by supporting appropriate legislation.
While breast cancer is at the forefront of our nation's attention during October, just knowing about something doesn't get results. For the National Breast Cancer Coalition, awareness is complacent. NBCC is about action to end breast cancer. For nearly 30 years, NBCC has worked tirelessly to identify and eliminate the barriers to ending breast cancer. We continue to challenge the status quo and empower thousands of breast cancer survivors to become effective advocates for the right research and the right laws, and for access to quality health care for all. Our unwavering courage to take on the tough battles and the tenacity to keep moving forward until we win has made NBCC the strong organization that it is. With the help of our educated advocates taking on leadership roles, we have transformed the breast cancer landscape.
Our accomplishments have been great, but we have a way to go before we reach our mission. We will lose 41,760 women and 500 men in the United States this year to breast cancer, and more than 600,000 worldwide. Isn't it time we stop losing the women and men we love to breast cancer?
Lisa Ann Wheeler is the National Breast Cancer Coalition lead breast cancer advocate for S.C.
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