With cancer poised to overcome heart disease as the United State's biggest killer, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging heard testimony yesterday from a variety of people urging broader funding and support for research, screening, and treatment

One of those asked to speak was Valerie Harper, an acclaimed television actress who last year was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. "Cancer reminds me of a very bad but tenacious performer, who although no one wants to see, insists on doing an encore, having a return engagement, making a comeback and worst of all, going on tour," she said during her testimony. 

Harper, 74, recounted her experiences with cancer - explaining to the Senators that she was diagnosed only by chance after undergoing a standard chest x-ray before a wrist surgery. Using experimental surgery, doctors were able to remove the cancerous cells. Harper remained cancer-free until last year - when doctors revealed that the disease had spread to her brain. 

Given only three to six months to live, Harper describes the routine she believes has been crucial to surviving beyond what she calls her "expiration date."  

"I take my prescribed medications religiously, have regular brain scans and whole body testing twice a year to see if the cancer has moved," she said. "I also take TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) tea, have acupuncture and engage in visualization ridding myself of cancer."

With lung cancer the #1 cancer killer in the U.S., Harper urged the Senate Committee to approve more funding for research and screenings. 

"Why must most lung cancers be found by accident as opposed to having a reliable method for early detection? While I am grateful the x-ray revealed the cancer, it highlights a troubling fact in lung cancer: seventy-five percent of all lung cancers are found too late – at later stages once the disease has already spread. As a nation, we must prioritize health funding and funding for research and that starts here in the Congress." 

Click here to read the rest of her testimony. You can also watch a segment from the hearing below. 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Valerie Harper urges Senate to increase funding for cancer research
Actress, currently battling terminal cancer, stresses need for advancing cancer screenings and treatment.