This month, I thought I would be writing about presenting an agenda to President-elect Clinton's transition team, with our suggestions for a plan to end breast cancer.
As a staunch supporter of the National Breast Cancer Coalition's (NBCC) mission for so many years, Hillary Clinton would have been our partner in implementing such a plan, with the ultimate goal to save lives. Instead, we are now faced with much uncertainty. We do not know what a Trump Administration will do about our issue. What we have seen thus far from President-elect Trump concerns us. His choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services has spent his career opposing the Affordable Care Act. He has proposed to slash Medicare and Medicaid. What will that mean for women and men with and at risk of breast cancer?
We do not know if women will have access to the care they need. We do not know if drugs will be more or less affordable, or if science will continue to be respected and advanced.
What we do know is this: regardless of who is in the White House, the Senate or the House, women and men continue to die of breast cancer around the world. This year in the U.S. alone, 246,660 women and 2,600 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and we will lose more than 40,000 women (and 450 men) to this disease. Worldwide, more than 522,000 women will die from breast cancer this year, and the WHO estimates that at the present rate of progress, in 2035, 840,000 women will die.
Another thing about breast cancer - as with all diseases, it's nonpartisan. While policy makers debate whether the Affordable Care Act should be eliminated or if discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions should be allowed, or significant cuts to Medicaid implemented, any woman with limited income or a history of breast cancer will be fighting an uphill battle to get the care she needs. Regardless, no matter their political party, religion, race or economic status, all women deserve a President who is committed to ending breast cancer.
So, I send this message to President-elect Trump: you said "Together we can save American JOBS, American LIVES, and AMERICAN FUTURES!" Well, let's do it. We need to work together to save lives and end breast cancer. We need to work together for a future where women and men do not get breast cancer, or die of it. You said nobody has more respect for women than you do. Respect us enough to embrace the tough work we need to do to end breast cancer. You said that nobody knows the system better than you. Then fix the system so that well funded research will focus on ending breast cancer for men and women forever.
All who care about breast cancer must send these messages to Donald Trump:
1) Ensure that every woman and man in the U.S. with and at risk of breast cancer has affordable access to quality health care - regardless of ability to pay. We need policies and laws to assure that no one can withhold coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
2) Support NBCC's Breast Cancer Deadline 2020® - a plan of action to know how to end breast cancer. We need the Trump Administration's 100% support.
3) Provide significant federal funding for focused, strategic research for rapid progress and policies that support unbiased science. Mr. Trump, you need to be a leader on this issue.
4) Assure that educated and trained advocates who represent this constituency are at the table whenever decisions are made in public policy and in setting research agendas. The incoming Administration needs to understand and embrace this approach.
The heart and soul of NBCC is the passion and commitment of many thousands of dedicated advocates across the country, women and men who have no expectation of reward other than the end of breast cancer. The new Administration's vocal and policy support for an innovative approach to ending breast cancer and its recognition of the power of grassroots advocacy can help fuel these ongoing efforts. They will be vital to reaching the Deadline and, ultimately, the end of breast cancer. We need the leaders of this nation to safeguard our investment, and the progress we have made so far. We need our President to step up and guarantee real access to quality health care for all.
Mr. Trump, if you share our goal to end breast cancer and our approach to get there, we are ready to work with you. Ending breast cancer would truly be a GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT!! And women's lives depend on it.