U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary emphasizing the importance of prevention and early detection of breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphasized the importance of cancer prevention and early detection at a breast cancer awareness month event on Tuesday. Credit: Photo by Audrey Pernik/APHA

Early detection saves lives. That was the message delivered by members of Congress and the administration at a breast cancer awareness event Tuesday hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in recognition of breast cancer awareness month. The event took place at the Capital Breast Care Center, located in a southeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C., that provides low- and no-cost breast cancer screening to low-income and underserved women.

After touring the facility, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Reps. Rosa De Lauro and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz joined cancer survivors and advocates to mark the progress made in cancer research, awareness and advocacy in recent years.

“Now thanks to health reform, being a woman will no longer be a preexisting condition,” said Sebelius citing an array of important prevention provisions that have already been implemented or will take effect soon.

As of  June 2010, six months after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, all qualified health plans must now cover the cost of preventive services rated A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, including recommended preventive care and screenings for women.

Dr. John Seffrin, chief executive officer of ACS CAN, cautioned that while “breast cancer deaths have gone down 30 percent since 1991, there is still more work to be done.”

Due to cut or leveled federal funding in recent years, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program that supports local cancer centers across the country – including the Capital Breast Care Center – can provide screening to only one in every five eligible women.

Both De Lauro and Wasserman-Shultz called upon their colleagues for increased funding for biomedical research to find treatment and stronger support of federal programs that provide access to lifesaving cancer screening to women who would otherwise go without.

“The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program will celebrate its 10 millionth screening this fall,” hailed DeLauro who has been a vocal advocate of cancer patients and is celebrating 25 years of being cancer-free herself.

Tanya Snyder, wife of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and a breast cancer survivor, also spoke at the event on behalf of the National Football League to tout the NFL’s fundraising campaign “A Crucial Catch” that bolsters awareness of breast cancer and reminds all women to get their annual mammograms.

“Put it on your calendar. That’s why we have all of this pink,” Snyder directed. “When you catch it early, you have a better chance of survival. That’s the main message here.”

When the Redskins face off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 16, the George Washington University’s “Mammovan” will be parked on-site before kickoff to provide educational materials about the importance of prevention and early detection. The GW Mammovan travels to underserved communities in the D.C. area to provide no-cost mammograms for women who could otherwise not afford it.