Wednesday, May 11, 2011

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Each October, we observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate ourselves about breast cancer. Many of us have been touched in some way by this horrible disease, which is expected to take the lives of more than 40,000 women this year according to the American Cancer Society.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death for women after lung cancer. Although there is still no cure for breast cancer, improved detection techniques and medical treatments have caused the death rates from breast cancer to continue to fall. Health professionals recommend that all women have a mammogram each year beginning at age 40. Women with a family history of the disease or other factors that put them at higher risk should talk with their doctors, as they may require more frequent or earlier screenings.

Because the early detection of breast cancer increases the chances for a successful outcome and offers patients more options for treatment, state and medical officials have been working to ensure more women have access to necessary screenings. The Ohio Department of Health has a Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP) that provides mammograms to women age 50 and above, and clinical breast exams and Pap tests to women 40 and above, as well as other diagnostic tests to uninsured women with household incomes of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level at no cost to them.

Through the BCCP, tens of thousands of women throughout Ohio have benefited from critical health screenings that could save lives. For more information about the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project, including whether you or someone you know is eligible, contact the Cincinnati Regional Office at 1-888-727-6266.

Here at the Statehouse, my colleagues and I are discussing a bill that could improve the way many cancer patients receive treatment. One of the more recent advancements in cancer treatment is the development of oral chemotherapy pills, which are currently used to treat certain types of leukemia and tumors, and may be used in the future to treat other types of cancer. Patients who take these pills are able to avoid frequent trips to a hospital or clinic to receive chemotherapy administered through a traditional IV, lowering costs for both them and the hospital.

However, due to the pills’ high cost, many patients are unable to take advantage of these pills because they are usually covered under their pharmacy benefit, rather than their medical insurance. As a result, patients who would like to use the pills instead of IV-infused chemotherapy can face expensive co-payments or large out-of-pocket expenses once they meet or exceed their prescription plan’s annual coverage limit.

To address this issue, Senator Karen Gillmor has introduced Senate Bill 133, which would ensure that oral chemotherapy pills are not treated less favorably by insurance companies than chemotherapy agents that are infused at a doctor’s office or hospital. This change will allow patients and doctors to decide on the best course of treatment for cancer rather than insurance companies and ensure cancer patients receive top-quality care without unreasonable costs or hassles.

This month, I hope you will take a moment to remember those across the country who are living with breast cancer, as well as their family, friends and the many doctors, researchers, nurses and medical professionals who work hard each day to make a difference in their lives. Additionally, protect both yourself and those you love by educating yourself about this disease and how to prevent it.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.
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