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Copyright 1999 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.  
Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

March 16, 1999, Tuesday


LENGTH: 767 words


Statement of U.S. Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Ranking Member, Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment Women's Health: Raising Awareness of Cervical Cancer Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Mr. Chairman, thank you for arranging today's hearing. I'd also like to thank Mr. Mack, Ms. Eshoo, and our other distinguished panelists for joining us today. While I'm pleased the subcommittee will hear from a wide range of witnesses, I am disappointed that it was not possible to include a representative from the College of American Pathologists. This organization, which represents some 16,000 physicians, offers a unique perspective on the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer. Their input would have been extremely valuable. The tragedy of cervical cancer is two-fold. It is tragic that each year, hundreds of thousands of women confront cervical cancer, a profoundly debilitating and deadly illness. And it is tragic that cervical cancer remains such a virulent killer when it is within our power to prevent it. Cervical cancer is a national and international public health issue. It accounts for six percent of all cancers diagnosed in women in the United States. Each year, it takes nearly 5,000 lives. In my home state of Ohio, over 200 deaths each year are attributable to cervical cancer. Worldwide, more than 470,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. In both industrialized and non- industrialized nations, cervical cancer takes its greatest toll on those individuals least able to fight back -- minority populations and the economically disadvantaged. Cervical cancer deaths can be virtually eliminated through behavioral changes, early detection, and timely access to treatment -- all of which hinge on public awareness. Public awareness fuels change. It can generate the individual and collective actions necessary to achieve a meaningful reduction in cervical cancer rates. The public needs to know that safe behaviors and proper screening can reduce cervical cancer death rates dramatically. We need to get them the facts about screening test accuracy, new detection methods, and treatment breakthroughs so they can play an active role in prevention and treatment decisions. And we need to emphasize the potential inherent in a national commitment to combat this disease. The public needs to know about initiatives like the CDC's breast and cervical cancer early detection program, which has reached millions of uninsured women with free screening tests. Public awareness can help us garner the resources needed for CDC and its state and local partners to do more than scratch the surface of this problem. As currently funded, the CDC program can only reach 15% of uninsured women. We can, and should, do much better than that. We need to spread the word about initiatives like H.R. 1070, legislation introduced by Mr. Eshoo and Mr. Lazio, that would ensure proper treatment for women who are screened under the CDC program and diagnosed with cancer. Diagnosis is a cruel and fiscally irresponsible exercise when women diagnosed with cancer have no access to treatment. Finally, we must all become more sensitive to potential barriers blocking proper cervical cancer screening. Pap smears have dramatically reduced cervical cancer deaths, and it is critical that we do everything in our power to ensure their continued availability. In that context, we must be vigilant in evaluating the adequacy of federal reimbursement for pap smears. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement directly affect access for two populations particularly vulnerable to cervical cancer -- low income individuals and the elderly. And since private reimbursement is often based on federal payment rates, our actions indirectly affect millions of women with employer-sponsored or individual insurance coverage. It is imperative that federal reimbursement accurately reflect the true costs of performing and evaluating pap smears. Inadequate data on cervical cancer incidence rates is one of our greatest obstacles, a problem to which little attention is paid. We need to direct resources into gathering data specific to different races and cultures. Our current data lumps different sub-populations together, potentially masking wide variations in cervical cancer rates. It is critical to understand these differences in order to target prevention and treatment initiatives appropriately. Knowledge fuels advocacy, and in the case of cervical cancer, advocacy can save countless lives. That is why today's hearing on cervical cancer awareness is so valuable. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

LOAD-DATE: March 18, 1999

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