Cancer is critical issue in state’s U.S. Senate race
Time is running out in the campaign for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat. With less than 40 days until the election, the contest between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson is predicted to be close. A tight race provides the opportunity for both the public and the candidates to shed light on issues that are important to Wisconsinites—and what could be more important than cancer, a disease that affects so many families in our state?
Each day in Wisconsin, 87 people are diagnosed with cancer—more than 30,000 annually—yet neither of the Senate candidates is talking about what should be done to combat this disease. Perhaps they don’t immediately make the connection between the office for which they’re running and the fight against cancer. But the connection is there, and it’s real.
The federal government is the largest source of cancer research funding in the nation. Last year, the National Institutes of Health awarded more than $24 billion in grants across the country, including more than $402 million here in Wisconsin. Nearly 14 million cancer survivors in America are living proof of just how important those grants are to the success we’ve had against cancer in the last 40 years.
But it’s the next 10 years where our commitment to winning this fight may be most tested.
Federal funding for cancer research is on the chopping block. The “sequestration” deal Congress worked out during last summer’s budget battle means cancer research funding, which has not kept pace with inflation, could be cut by millions of dollars every year for the next nine. These cuts will come as cancer incidence is expected to double and will result in fewer new treatments making it from the lab to patients.
Thankfully, there’s still time to act. Our elected officials and those who will be elected can come together and forge a long-term budget fix that protects cancer research funding. They can prioritize programs that turn a new treatment or diagnostic idea into reality. They can decrease the number of researchers whose ideas wither from inadequate funding and nurture another generation of breakthroughs. They can help us beat cancer.
This is why the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is taking action this election season and asking the U.S. Senate candidates where they stand on important cancer issues.
Both U.S. Senate candidates have been asked to return a candidate questionnaire detailing their positions on cancer research funding, access to affordable health care and work to prevent cancer through funding programs such as the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
As I write, neither has responded.
Cancer is an election issue. The fact is one in two men and one in three women in our country will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. This is a constituency too big to ignore and one too important to forget. Considering all that’s at stake during the next decade, cancer patients, survivors and caretakers need answers to these critical questions. They need to know before time runs out.
Allison Miller is Wisconsin government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, 2942 Winter Park Place, Madison; phone (608) 662.7559; email firstname.lastname@example.org.