Ending Breast Cancer: The President’s Role

by Nancy Ryan

Nancy Ryan, New Hampshire Breast Cancer Coalition

In September 2010, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) launched Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®, an unprecedented, bold initiative backed by a comprehensive strategy to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020.  One component of Breast Cancer Deadline 2020® is a grassroots campaign to collect more than 290,000 signatures on a petition calling on the next President to support Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.

Why call on the president?  The answer is simple. 

The President can create a vision, set a goal and galvanize a nation.  It took enormous courage for President John F. Kennedy to announce in 1961 his goal of sending a man to the moon within a decade.  But the time was right.  The United States faced a challenge in the arena of space exploration.  The President knew the country was positioned to become a world leader in this arena.  He knew our country had the talent and the potential technology to accomplish the task.

Several decades of breast cancer research have brought our nation to a similar juncture.  Despite billions of dollars invested in research, awareness, screening and treatment, breast cancer incidence has increased and breast cancer mortality has not declined commensurate with our investment.  This year alone, more than 290,000 American women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  What we do have are the tools and talent to turn these statistics around.  We have gained unprecedented insights into the genetics and biology of breast cancer.  We have sophisticated technology to analyze, store and manipulate enormous amounts of data about cancer.  We have dedicated researchers who understand the devastating emotional, financial and personal burden shouldered by breast cancer patients, their families, friends and caregivers.

What we need is new approach, a new vision and a new “call to action.”  The President can provide that leadership.  The President has far-reaching opportunities to bring national attention to ending this disease.  Presidential leadership can inspire every stakeholder— researchers, trained advocates, doctors, nurses, students, legislators, policy makers—to harness the knowledge we have gained over the past several decades and focus it on saving lives.  The President can use the power of his office to inspire innovation and creativity in the scientific community.  The President can help to leverage our current research investment by encouraging bold, new avenues of research designed to investigate breast cancer prevention and preventing metastasis.  The President can support those who work within federal agencies that conduct breast cancer research, carry out health care policy, and manage national cancer prevention, screening and control programs.  And finally, the President can announce his support for Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®

Everyone has a role to play in ending breast cancer, including a President with the courage, vision and leadership to accomplish the task.

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