Each October for the past 26 years, we've come together as a nation of patients, survivors, family and friends to increase awareness of breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The next step in awareness is to understand what rights women do or should have when it comes to their breast health. This year, we've taken steps to outline those clearly with a new Breast Cancer Bill of Rights--a clear, straightforward platform for engaging activists and challenging decision makers.
Thirty years ago, I promised my dying sister Suzy that I would do everything in my power to end breast cancer forever. The Breast Cancer Bill of Rights is the next step in extending that promise to all women.
We believe this is a perfect time to focus our energies in this way. This year's health reform law in the U.S. included several patient protections that marked a significant step in the right direction--enhanced access to mammography, protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and so forth. But the reality is, even after 2014, when the patient protections are fully phased in, there still will be significant gaps in access to breast health services and issues of quality of care.
As far as breast cancer survivors and advocates are concerned, health reform was just a first step and not the end of the road. For example, we believe all women should have access to breast screening tools that may save her life. Women age 40 and older who are enrolled in either Medicare or newly-issued health plans now have access to an annual screening mammogram--with no additional cost.
Yet the benefit isn't guaranteed to women in health plans established prior to September 23. For at least the next several years, underserved women will continue to rely on a patchwork of state-based safety net programs that are threatened by budget cuts due to the struggling economy.
And while mammography is currently the best screening tool available, it is far from perfect and not effective for some women, particularly those with dense breasts--so we will continue to press for the development of better technologies and for access to additional screening tools as recommended.
The Breast Cancer Bill of Rights outlines our promise to the women we serve. Among other things, we promise to fight for a woman's right to:
· Access breast cancer screening tools that may save her life.
· Fight breast cancer without fear of bankruptcy.
· Own affordable, quality health insurance.
· Obtain timely diagnosis and treatment.
· Receive high quality care, no matter where she seeks medical services.
It's not acceptable when any woman is denied screening that may save her life, or has to worry about anything other than survival. We promise to keep pushing until the gaps in health care are filled once and for all. That's our promise. Now, what will you promise?
Nancy Brinker is a guest blogger. She is the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In 2010, GSK provided funding to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.