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I recently received a letter from a constituent on a plain white envelope.  In the corner was a brightly colored Breast Cancer Research Stamp.  I always smile when I see one of these because I know that each one brings us closer to finding a cure for breast cancer. 

But without Congressional action this year, these stamps and the research they support will be in jeopardy.

In 1998, I heard from breast cancer survivors and family members of women who succumbed to the disease, offering their stories in support of a proposed Breast Cancer Research Stamp.  Their efforts were rewarded when the stamp became the first-ever “semipostal,” meaning the 55-cent stamp does more than just cover first-class postage.

Of the remaining 11 cents, about 8 cents go into the National Institutes of Health and about 3 cents go to the Department of Defense, both of which conduct breast cancer research.

11 cents may sound like small change, but all told, the stamp has raised more than $73 million for breast cancer research.

One example of how this money is being used is the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment Program. The program’s goal is to determine which patients with early-stage breast cancer are most likely to benefit from chemotherapy. This will reduce the use of chemotherapy in those patients who are unlikely to benefit.  There is so much we still do not know about breast cancer, and projects like this one can have a major effect.

Thanks to breakthroughs in cancer research, more and more women are surviving this deadly disease. And every dollar we raise helps us save more lives.

The Breast Cancer Research Stamp is set to expire on December 31.  Unless Congress acts, the U.S. Postal Service will end sales and not a penny more will go to research from this stamp.

This is why Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and I are working together to pass legislation that will extend the authorization of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp for four additional years – until December 31, 2015.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women. 

More than 2 million women have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and as many as a million more may not know they have it.  A lesser-known fact is that over 1 thousand men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

 According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and more than 40,000 will die.

Yet if detected early, the five-year survival rate exceeds 95 percent.  And while mammograms are among the best early detection methods, 13 million women older than 40 have never had one.

The Breast Cancer Research Stamp is an easy way to contribute to an important cause.  So please call your Senators and Representative and ask them to join us in reauthorizing this important tool in the battle against breast cancer.

Dianne Feinstein represents the State of California in the U.S. Senate.

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