As President Bush declared October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Senate defeated an amendment that would have increased the research budget of the National Institute of Health (NIH).
"During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we raise awareness of this deadly disease, encourage early detection, and support research to find a cure," Bush Proclaimed for the Oval Office of the White House. Only three weeks earlier, the Senate voted down the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein Amendment to S.1356 to increase by $1.5 billion the funds to be appropriated for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2004.
The Amendment, which needed sixty votes to pass, would have increased funding, primarily for research, in the hope of finding cures for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other ailments.
"These diseases of mass destruction are responsible for about 1.5 million American deaths every year, more than the number of all American lives lost in every war from the time of the Revolution to the present," explained Dr. Debakey, Chancellor Emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine. "It would be tragic if the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment to the Senate Labor/Health and Human Services Bill received less than full bipartisan support."
Forty-three Senators voted against the amendment, which was subsequently defeated.
In a time of war, recession, and budget deficits, the war on breast cancer has been largely ignored. President Bush has only signed one cancer-prevention bill into law, and neither he nor Senator Kerry have mentioned fighting cancer on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the nation's largest private funding source for breast cancer research and community outreach programs, will spend the month of October advocating an increase of cancer awareness among politicians.
"With the elections fast approaching, we have a special opportunity to put breast cancer on the national agenda," said Diane L. Balma, the Komen Foundation's director of public policy. "W e are asking citizens to seize this opportunity and ask their candidates where they stand on this critical issue to public health."
Despite the lack of support for the NIH funding increase, President Bush used his proclamation to tout the accomplishments, which have been made.
Said Bush, "The National Institute of Health has invested an estimated $700 million this year alone on breast cancer research and will spend more next year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has devoted over $200 million this year and more next year for an early detection program that promotes mammograms and helps low-income women afford screenings for breast and cervical cancer. The Department of Defense also invested approximately $150 million for its Breast Cancer Research program in 2004."
As the month goes on, The Komen Foundation is continuing to encourage activism on the issue, and has set up a public website at www.ActNowEndBreastCancer.org.
"Together with health care professionals, researchers, and family members," President Bush concluded, "we can improve the lives of those suffering from this disease and win the fight against breast cancer."