Mar 10 2020
Originally published in The Hill
BY SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN
Nearly one-fifth of all women who die in the United States die from cancer.
Even though breast cancer is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths a year, there is still much we don’t know about preventing, detecting and treating this deadly disease.
Thankfully, the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, a stamp created by Congress in 1998, is helping change that.
In the 1990s, Dr. Ernie Bodai, a breast cancer surgeon frustrated by the glacial pace of cancer research, came up with the idea of a stamp that would raise money to help fund breakthroughs.
The fundraising stamp became the first-of-its-kind in the United States, known as a semi-postal stamp. Sold for 65 cents, 10 cents from every stamp funds breast cancer research.
So far, the stamp has raised more than $90 million since it was created during its 22-year lifespan.
One recent success attributed to the stamp is a $5 million study that found 70 percent of women with the most common type of breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without negatively affecting their chances of beating the disease.
That means as many as 70,000 women a year won’t have to undergo this difficult treatment, saving both heartache and millions of dollars as a result. This is truly a great investment.
Another success came in 2018. A program that received $1 million in stamp-raised funds investigated the link between weight loss and the likelihood of a recurrence of cancer in women. While we know that being overweight or obese can place women at higher risk of getting breast cancer, this study will try to determine if weight loss also lowers the risk of cancer relapsing in survivors.
The study has already enrolled nearly 2,000 cancer survivors and will follow their health for several years to better understand the effect of weight loss on survivors.
Another stamp-funded study looked at the two most commonly used mammography methods to determine their efficacy and whether some cancers are better detected by one method or the other.
Part of the study includes collecting biospecimens of different cancers. The Breast Cancer Stamp is funding a repository where these samples will be available for further research.
Understanding the biology of different cancers and their relationships with different screening methods may save countless lives through early detection in the future.
When I first introduced a bill to create the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, I hoped it would contribute in some small way to helping fight this terrible disease. I never imagined the effect it would have on cancer research, treatment and awareness.
Thanks to the millions of Americans who have purchased these stamps, we have all helped provide real hope to breast cancer survivors and improved thousands of lives in the process.
These studies and others like them show the tremendous potential to make meaningful advances in preventing, detecting and treating breast cancer. One stamp at a time, we’re finding new ways of saving more women from this terrible disease.
As well as this stamp has done, I think it can do even more. While that means each of us should do our best to use this stamp whenever we can, it also means companies should do more to advertise its existence.
Last year I called on major retailers and banks – locations where most stamps are sold – to increase their efforts to promote sales of the Breast Cancer Stamp. Late last year, Rite Aid pledged to carry and promote the stamp during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I renew my call for other retailers to do more to promote this stamp.
Despite the strides we’ve made, however, breast cancer still remains the second-deadliest cancer for women. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Together, however, we can do more to ensure that the survival rate climbs by using the Breast Cancer Research Stamp.
With your help, this stamp will continue to play a part in helping expand research, reduce the cost of treatment and ultimately save more lives.
Feinstein is the senior senator from California.