The Honorable Amy Klobuchar: Advocating for Cancer Research and Early Detection from Personal Experience
U.S. Senator for Minnesota
I would like first of all to thank the researchers at the American Association for Cancer Research who contributed to this special report on COVID-19 and cancer. As we continue our efforts to detect disease early, improve treatment practices, and ultimately find new cures and vaccines for cancer, this research is critical. I also want to recognize all of the doctors, nurses, and other health care personnel who are working every day on the front lines caring for patients with a coronavirus infection or cancer. I recently visited the emergency room in our biggest public hospital in Minneapolis and it really hit home to me that this isn’t over by any means. Even though so many people have now been vaccinated and we continue to find new and exciting treatments, it’s been an exhausting and difficult year, so I thank you all for your extraordinary work.
The topic of cancer and early detection is personal for me. Following a routine mammogram last February, I learned that I had stage IA breast cancer. Thanks to my incredible doctors and nurses, the treatment went well, and my doctors believe that my chances of developing cancer again are no greater than those of the average person. Those aren’t the stories that you used to hear—that cancer was caught so early that you could get through it with a lumpectomy and radiation. As often happens for anyone dealing with an illness, this experience gave me time to reflect on my own life and those I love. It was a reminder that each day is a gift.
I shared my story to call attention to the fact that because of the pandemic, many people have been delaying physicals and routine exams, including the kinds of tests that can help people catch cancer early. I know that because I delayed mine. I’ve heard from so many people across the country since that day. I’ve had people text me or write on Twitter that they’re in the waiting room right now to get their mammogram or their colonoscopy. That’s kind of a fulfilling thing, but there are still thousands of people walking around with undetected cancer because they’re not going in to get that preventative care. With many Americans behind on their regular checkups, we need to do more to make sure they have the resources and information they need to access this potentially lifesaving care. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Preventative Care Awareness Act with Senators Susan Collins and Mike Rounds—who, tragically, recently lost his own wife, the love of his life, to cancer—to promote screenings and create a public health task force to encourage preventative care and address disparities in these services. I’m going to keep fighting until we get this done.
But prevention is just one part. We also have to invest in medical research so that we can develop new treatments and cures for cancer and respond to any future pandemics. I recently fought to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and I will continue to push for more permanent, stable resources so we can make the next great discovery. I was honored to be there when President Obama and now President Biden signed the Cancer Moonshot into law, and I want to be there for the next great discoveries and all the work that comes straight from you on the front lines. We can find new solutions, new treatments, and new cures, and save lives.
Before I close, I have a message for anyone living with cancer. I know you’re in a big fight right now. But you’re not in it alone. I’m in your corner, sending you strength and love. And I know the entire AACR community is doing the same.
So, keep up the amazing work. I’m proud to be your partner, and I’m going to be with you every step of the way. You know what a difference that makes, because you do it for other people all the time. Thank you.