How to Win the War Against Cancer
By LANCE ARMSTRONG
May 13, 2008; Page A17 - The Wall Street Journal
“What a difference a day makes.” It’s a phrase we often hear, and like many clichés, it has some elements of truth. A single day can turn the tide and lead to victory.
And today, the fifth annual LIVESTRONG Day, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is asking every American to join our united front against cancer and help make beating this disease a national priority.
Cancer affects every person in this country. Twelve million Americans have the disease; this year alone nearly 600,000 lives will be lost to it, while 1.4 million of us will get the dreaded diagnosis from our doctors. In some communities, death rates are substantially higher than in others.
“Of all the forms of inequality,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Cancer deaths are shamefully high among minorities and the poor because many lack access to life-saving prevention and treatment measures.
A leading cancer specialist, Dr. Harold Freeman, says there’s a disconnect between what we know and what we do. On many levels, we know how to defeat cancer; we just don’t do it. Funding for cancer research. Investment in prevention programs. Access to screening. Early detection and effective treatment for everyone. Support for people living with cancer. Personal commitment to healthier living. These are the priorities we must pursue.
Through LIVESTRONG Day, the Lance Armstrong Foundation aims to raise awareness for the fight against cancer. With more than 600 events taking place across the country – everything from fund raisers to educational efforts to Wear Yellow Days – May 13 will be a day of unity, inspiration and accomplishment.
Clearly, it’s going to take more than a single day to beat this opponent. The war against cancer must be an ongoing national effort – one that mobilizes our country’s considerable resources. Yet funding for the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health has been flat in recent years. This is unacceptable, considering that cancer is the number one killer of Americans under 85.
But increased funding is only part of the solution. Government must streamline the laborious process of getting breakthroughs from lab to clinic. We can cut out red tape of questionable necessity that discourages innovation in the private sector.
Meanwhile, the private sector must work to ensure that Americans fighting cancer have access to new treatments and therapies. Our regulatory system should not hinder the fight against cancer, and our profit-based health-care providers should do more to address the fact that too few people can afford the treatments they deserve.
This nation needs a renewed, comprehensive approach to the war on cancer. I was encouraged last week, when I testified before the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s invitation, that new legislation may soon achieve this goal.
Last November, in my home state, Texans voted in overwhelming numbers to make a $3 billion investment in the fight, establishing a state-funded cancer research and prevention institute.
In our cities and states, the tide is turning. It is my hope that LIVESTRONG Day 2008 will inspire even more policy efforts and, in this historic presidential election year, once again make cancer a national priority.
What can you do? Ask your local, state and national lawmakers what steps they’ll take against tobacco, the number one cause of cancer, and how they’ll ensure that all of us – not just star athletes and politicians – have access to prevention efforts, early screening and effective treatment. Educate yourself and others. Support cancer programs in your community. Live a healthy life. And vote.
Mr. Armstrong, a seven-time winner of the Tour de France, is founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and a cancer survivor. Visit www.livestrong.org.