WASHINGTON – The Biden administration's initiative to spur prevention and treatment of cancer got a dose of celebrity support Monday when singer Mary J. Blige joined Jill Biden and the American Cancer Society to announce national meetings on breast and cervical cancer.
The cancer society pledged to convene the events after President Joe Biden and the first lady resurrected the “cancer moonshot” initiative this year. The program provides more money for research to, as Jill Biden said, “help us end cancer as we know it. For good.”
R&B superstar Blige said she lost aunts and other family members to breast, cervical and lung cancer. She has promoted breast cancer screening, especially among Black women who are disproportionately affected, through the Black Women's Health Imperative.
Blige on Monday blamed misconceptions about mammograms among Black women and “the practice of not wanting other people in our business” for disparities in breast cancer outcomes between Blacks and whites.
She said she is convinced that, had her aunts, godmother and grandparents been informed about cancer, “they would have a different outcome today.” She paused a few times to stay composed.
The first lady reached for Blige when the Grammy Award-winning singer returned to her seat. They sat holding hands for several minutes before Biden, whose adult son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, thanked Blige for “lending your powerful voice to this cause.”
The first lady said the administration's cancer initiative will help encourage collaboration and research, invest in new treatments and therapies, and help people get the best care and support for their loved ones.
She said it is about creating “a future where we don't have to be afraid of the word cancer anymore.”
The American Cancer Society said the roundtables will bring doctors, scientists and other professionals together with leading organizations to work on making progress against cancer. They are to begin this week, said Karen Knudsen, the CEO.
Breast cancer is the leading cancer for women, and is the No. 1 cause of death among Black and Latino women. More than 14,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths, she said.
Knudsen said the meetings will work to “end breast and cervical cancer as we know it for everyone.”
Since becoming first lady, Jill Biden has traveled around the country to learn about advances in cancer research and encourage people, especially women, to catch up on the screenings they skipped during the pandemic.
Her cancer advocacy began in the 1990s, after four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer.