Ovarian Cancer Advocacy

Ovarian Cancer Advocacy blog header

Written by:
Bridget Toomey, CPC, CPB
Project Manager
Patient Financial Services
University of Iowa Health Care

On March 5th 2019, over 150 ovarian cancer advocates made their way to the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. to meet with their Senators and Representatives to ask for increased funding for ovarian cancer research and awareness. I was among those advocates and I was there to represent the state of Iowa.

According to the National Cancer Institute, Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women in the United States, but is the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, with a five-year survival rate of only 46.5 percent. Because of the location of the ovaries in the body, most ovarian cancers go undiagnosed until the late stages of the disease with only 14.8 percent of ovarian cancer diagnosed early. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 22,530 new cases will be diagnosed, and 13,980 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States in 2019.

I lost my mom, Denese Kromminga, to ovarian cancer on World Cancer day, February 4th, 2016. It was after losing my mom when I decided I needed to do something to help bring awareness to and to help prevent this terrible disease. With this goal, I became an Advocate Leader with the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA). This March was my fourth trip to the country’s Capitol advocating with OCRA. Both on Capitol Hill and at home, I am continuing to build my relationships with our elected officials. During this advocacy day I met with the health staffers from Senator Ernst’s office, Senator Grassley’s office and from Congressman Loebsack’s Office.

My asks for these three offices included:

  • Support for $35M in funding for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) for FY2020. This is a $15M increase over funding in FY2019 that will enable OCRP to expand investments in ovarian cancer research. In 2017, OCRP fell $32.2 million short of being able to fund all research applications that were scored in the outstanding or excellent ranges, and was only able to fund 4 percent of the total number of applications it received.
  • Support for $12M in funding for CDC’s Johanna’s Law for FY2020. Johanna’s Law supports all gynecologic cancer education and awareness programs. This is a $5M increase over funding for FY2019 and will enable the CDC to help address disparities in gynecologic cancer with the Inside Knowledge Campaign.
  • Support for $9.5M in funding for CDC’s Ovarian Cancer Control Initiative (OCCI). This request is for level funding from FY2019.
  • Support for $6.5B in funding for National Cancer Institute (NCI). This request is for level funding from FY2019

As a new member of the Iowa Cancer Consortium, I hope to continue advocating at the national level and to increase my advocacy at the state level. We need better outcomes for women with ovarian cancer and the only way to get that is to continue to speak up and advocate!