Press Release

In Honor Of Mother’s Day This Weekend, Gillibrand Announces New Agenda To Continue Battle Against Breast Cancer

May 5, 2010

Washington, DC – As New Yorkers pay honor to all mothers this weekend, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is announcing a new legislative agenda to battle breast cancer. On average, over 14,000 New York women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and nearly 3,000 New York women lose their lives to breast cancer each year.  Over a quarter of a million women in America were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.

Senator Gillibrand’s new effort includes raising awareness and emphasize prevention, particularly among younger women; legislation to require insurers to cover minimum hospital stays following major breast cancer treatments, including surgeries; and legislation to establish a standard of best practices for providers to help close racial disparities in access to lifesaving treatments. 

“Thousands of mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters in our state fall victim to this horrible disease every single year.  We must recommit ourselves to the battle against breast cancer.  It’s time for Congress to take a bold, new stand in the fight against breast cancer,” Senator Gillibrand said. “No woman should lose out on access to screenings and treatments or be kicked out of the hospital too soon after surgery. And we can never back down from our research into lifesaving cures.  My agenda will close racial disparities in treatments to ensure equal access, encourage young women to get screenings early and often, require insurance companies to cover costly hospital stays for major surgeries, and make new federal investments in research.”

Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a leading cancer research and treatment center supports Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to increase Breast Cancer Awareness this Mother’s Day. “Expanded education to raise awareness among women of all ages and enhanced funding for research into the causes, latest and least invasive treatments as well as identification and elimination of barriers are important steps toward improving survival for all women diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Dr. Donald Trump, President and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “In this battle against cancer, it is important that no woman should lose out on important treatments and care, and every woman should be armed with the education and tools necessary to make informed decisions.”

“Two words can summarize why I am alive today – Screening and Knowledge,” said Geri Barish, President of 1 in 9: the Long Island Breast Cancer Coalition. “As a woman who has lost a mother and countless friends to Breast Cancer, I know the importance of preventative services and access to quality healthcare. This battle is far from over and I applaud Senator Gillibrand for addressing this issue.”

Over 14,000 women in New York are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.  One in five of those diagnosed with breast cancer die.

READ the full county-by-county report on how many New York women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

Health Care Law Was Major Step Forward

Senator Gillibrand fought hard during the health care debate to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against women by denying or rescinding coverage to breast cancer survivors and providing free preventative care for women. The health care reform law, passed early this year outlaws discrimination and ensures that every woman in America has access to free screening and preventions services.

Senator Gillibrand is now working with Democratic and Republican colleagues on a new, comprehensive legislative agenda to continue the battle against breast cancer.

Close Racial Disparities in Access to Treatment
African American women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer than white women, but are 10 percent less likely to receive auxiliary or underarm lymph node screening following breast cancer diagnosis, a crucial step to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Studies show that health insurance status, race, income and educational background are all directly linked to disparities in vital screening tests.

To end racial disparities in access to lifesaving breast cancer treatment, Senator Gillibrand is introducing new legislation in the Senate to establish best practices for breast cancer treatment and penalize providers that do not offer best practices to all patients.  Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would require the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to work with the National Quality Forum to develop the standards. Service providers would then report their practices to the HHS secretary, and providers would be penalized through reduced Medicare payments if they do not use best practices for their patients within three years.

Require Insurers to Cover Minimum Hospital Stays
Currently, women and families are often forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for hospital stays after undergoing these surgeries and treatments. Insurance companies often refuse to cover extended recovery time in the hospital for women after breast cancer surgery.

According to the American College of Surgeons, about two-thirds of all women who undergo mastectomies in the U.S. must leave the hospital a few hours after surgery because their insurance will not pay for a longer stay.

Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring legislation authored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that would require insurance companies to cover minimum hospital stays for mastectomies, lumpectomies and lymph node dissections. This bill would require insurance companies to pay for at least 48 hours of hospital care, if it is needed after a woman has either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy and lymph node removal surgery to diagnose and treat breast cancer.  About 20 states already have a similar requirement.

New Public Awareness Campaign to Target Young Women, High Risk Groups
Breast Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 15 to 54.  The disease accounts for 26 percent of all cancer in females ages 15 to 39 and 39 percent of all cancer in women 35 to 39 year-olds, according to the latest data from the National Cancer Institute.   According to the latest census numbers, there are more than 250,000 women in the U.S. who were 40 or under when they were first diagnosed with breast cancer. Young women are often underrepresented in research studies and experts say there is still no effective screening tool for women 40 and under. The need for more attention and research on women in this age group is vital.

Senator Gillibrand co-sponsored legislation that was included in the health care reform bill to develop and implement a national educational campaign to increase awareness of the threats posed by breast cancer in young women and high-risk groups, including African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews.

To ensure the campaign is successful, Senator Gillibrand, in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is requesting that the campaign be fully implemented by October 2010 to coordinate with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Senator Gillibrand is also sending a letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Industries to request dedicated funding in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget for the public awareness campaign.

Research Impact of Environmental Factors on Breast Cancer
Senator Gillibrand is working to secure more than $60 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support their Environmental Health Laboratory efforts.  Senator Gillibrand has sent a letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Industries requesting these funds.

This will fund national research on environmental factors that contribute to breast cancer development, including exposures to pesticides and hormones in food, ingredients in personal care products, and air-borne pollutants.