Following her breast cancer diagnosis, Katie Couric throws support behind cancer screening bill

The bill is spearheaded by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 7:29 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Following her breast cancer diagnosis this summer, journalist Katie Couric has turned to advocacy on Capitol Hill as she joined lawmakers Tuesday to support a bill to make cancer screenings more widely available nationwide.

“No woman should have to forgo lifesaving screening because insurance doesn’t cover it,” she told a crowd of listeners as she stood shoulder to shoulder with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The lawmakers are championing a bipartisan bill called the ‘Find it Early Act.’ The legislation promises to cut costs by ensuring that all health insurance plans cover screenings and diagnostic mammograms plus breast ultrasounds and MRI’s with no cost sharing.

“99% of women who receive an early breast cancer diagnosis survive it,” said DeLauro, who is also a cancer survivor. She stressed early detection is key to saving lives. DeLauro believes that even with a divided Congress next year the bill will pass.

“We are not governing from the extremes, but we are addressing a serious health problem that women face. It is not a partisan issue. And so, I believe that we can and we will come together around this. And it doesn’t make a difference of who chairs the committee or who doesn’t chair the committee. It is about working together to get something done. There are some issues in which we can’t do that, but I believe when it comes to women’s health and the issue of survival and breast cancer and early detection, that that’s understood because early detection is true of all cancers,” said DeLauro.

Couric added, “I also think that most members of Congress probably know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the ultimate bipartisan issue. Breast cancer doesn’t spare anyone. And, doesn’t spare people because they’re in a particular political party.”

Couric said when she did a colonoscopy on the Today show back in 2000, it resulted in a 20% increase in colonoscopies.

She added the issue of expanded cancer screenings is also a racial justice issue. The American Cancer Society reports that around 224,080 new cancer cases and 73,680 cancer deaths are expected to occur among Black people in 2022. Furthermore, it reports black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. It reports “black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, despite lower incidence of the disease.”

JoAnn Pushkin, executive director of DenseBreast-info, Inc, said it is harder for doctors to diagnose breast cancer in people with dense breasts. She had to undergo multiple screenings before her cancer was discovered.

“I’m a breast cancer survivor with dense breasts, and my cancer was missed an estimated five years in a row hidden on dense tissue. And so, the day I find out I have breast cancer, I also find out I have dense breasts. And that’s why it’s been missed five years in a row. And so, women with dense breasts need to be able to access additional screening after their mammogram. That dramatically increases cancer detection over mammograms alone. A lot of times people don’t even go to the doctor because they’re scared,” she said.

Pushkin noted that additional screenings can result in higher healthcare costs.

“I mean, to be told that you have dense breasts or are at high risk and need additional screening and then not be able to afford it because it strains the family budget is an awful choice to put a woman in” she said. “...They may delay screening or put off year after year screening that would find that cancer. We can’t find it early if we don’t look for it with adequate tools.”