CLEVELAND, OH – In honor of Mother’s Day and Women’s Health Week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced two new bills today that would help accelerate the end of breast cancer by 2020 and educate breast cancer patients about their reconstructive options prior to surgery. At University Hospitals (UH) Seidman Cancer Center, Brown joined Dr. Lyndsay Harris, Director of the UH Breast Cancer Program, and a Cleveland breast cancer patient scheduled for reconstructive surgery later this month. The press conference also included other local cancer patients and survivors supportive of these bills.

“We need to do more to fight breast cancer and better inform women, in Ohio, about their reconstructive care options. We empower them when we inform them of all options – including reconstructive surgery – at the outset of their treatment. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act will help ensure that women know of their options.” Brown said. “An overwhelming majority of women are not informed of their breast cancer reconstructive options, even though by law any insurance plan that covers breast cancer treatment must also cover reconstruction or prosthetic care. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act would ensure all women are informed of their care options prior to breast cancer surgery, so that they can benefit from a systematic plan of care from the start of treatment.”

SB at UHBrown also outlined the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, a bill that would establish a commission to develop a strategic plan to end breast cancer by identifying, promoting, and recommending initiatives, partnerships, and research within the public and private sectors and across the sciences to capitalize on the overlooked and underfunded initiatives that hold the most promise for eradicating breast cancer. The commission would have no more than 10 members from a variety of backgrounds, including experts in biomedical research, experts from various disciplines outside of biomedical research, and trained and knowledgeable patient advocates. Members would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. 

Brown continued, “Likewise, the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act establishes a commission to bring together leading experts to examine approaches to fighting breast cancer that don’t receive enough funding or attention.”

Dr. Harris, an internationally recognized authority on breast cancer treatment and research, explained why this commission would be vital to ending breast cancer.

“We are so grateful that Senator Brown is working on the Accelerating the End to Breast Cancer Act, which would create a commission that would be responsible for identifying, promoting, and recommending initiatives, partnerships, and research within the public and private sector and across the sciences that can be turned into strategies to help prevent breast cancer and breast cancer metastasis,” Dr. Harris said. “Research is vital to making progress in the fight against breast cancer. Creating a commission to better understand the state of breast cancer research is essential to help us know where progress is being made and where researchers need to go next.”

Brown also introduced the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, which would ensure women with breast cancer who are facing invasive surgeries are informed of all their care options prior to breast cancer surgery. Recent studies found 70 percent of breast cancer patients were never informed of their reconstructive options. Being able to discuss options, especially before the first surgery, allows women to participate fully in their complete care, and gives them more options for how reconstruction or prostheses might be used.

Minority women and women in rural areas are significantly less likely to receive information about their options regarding reconstruction and prostheses. Many women simply do not know that if their insurance covers breast cancer treatment, by law that insurance must also cover reconstructive or prosthetic care as well. The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) to target educational efforts to women of racial and ethnic minority status, and ensure all women are informed that:

  • Reconstruction is possible at the time of initial surgery or at a later time,
  • Prostheses may be available,
  • Federal law mandates public and private health plans to include coverage for reconstruction and prostheses,
  • The patient has a right to choose the provider of reconstructive care, and
  • The patient can choose the timing of reconstructive work.

Cleveland resident and breast cancer patient Patricia Reddick shared her story about fighting breast cancer and why these bills are so important to women who face breast cancer treatment. As an African-American woman, Reddick represents breast cancer patients who would most benefit from Brown’s breast cancer education bill.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women worldwide, with 1.3 million cases each year. In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, up from one in eleven in 1975. This year, 438,000 women died from breast cancer worldwide, an increase of 37.5 percent from 1990. 

Brown supported the health law, which for the first time ends discrimination in insurance premium rates based on gender. It also ensures that people with serious health conditions or preexisting conditions cannot be dropped from coverage or be charged exorbitant rates. Further, the health reform law adopted the Women’s Health Amendment, which Brown cosponsored, that requires all health plans to cover comprehensive women’s preventive care and screenings at no additional cost – a provision that will help 1.8 million Ohio women. Brown has also advocated for reducing the exclusivity period for biologic drugs that treat conditions like breast cancer. Allowing generics to come to market faster could save consumers and the American health care system more than $3.5 billion over the next decade.

Dr. Harris came to UH Seidman Cancer Center as Medical Director of the Breast Cancer Program from Yale, where she held leadership positions in breast medical oncology, genetics and genomics programs. A nationally recognized expert, Dr. Harris has focused her research on the genomic aspects and the development of novel strategies to evaluate and treat breast cancer. Dr. Harris is also a Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.