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Public Statements

Senate Resolution 222-Designating October 17, 2003 as "National Mammography Day"

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS: SENATE RESOLUTION 222¬óDESIGNATING OCTOBER 17, 2003 AS "NATIONAL MAMMOGRAPHY DAY"

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today I am introducing a resolution designating October 17, 2003, as "National Mammography Day". I am pleased that 52 of my colleagues have endorsed this proposal by agreeing to be original cosponsors. I might note that I have submitted a similar resolution each year since 1993, and on each occasion the Senate has shown its support for the fight against breast cancer by approving the resolution.

Each year, as I prepare to submit this resolution, I review the latest information from the American Cancer Society about breast cancer. For the year 2003, it is estimated that over 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and slightly fewer than 40,000 women will die of this disease.

In past years, I have often commented on how gloomy these statistics were. But as I review how these numbers are changing over time, I have come to the realization that it is really more appropriate to be optimistic. The number of deaths from breast cancer is actually stable or falling from year to year. Early detection of breast cancer continues to result in extremely favorable outcomes: 97 percent of women with localized breast cancer will survive 5 years or longer. New digital techniques make the process of mammography much more rapid and precise than before. Government programs will provide free mammograms to those who can't afford them, as well as Medicaid eligibility for treatment if breast cancer is diagnosed. Information about treatment of breast cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy has exploded, reflecting enormous research advances in this disease. So I am feeling quite positive about our battle against breast cancer. A diagnosis of breast cancer is not a death sentence, and I encounter long-term survivors of breast cancer nearly daily.

In recent times, the newspapers have been filled with discussion over whether the scientific evidence actually supports the conclusion that periodic screening mammography saves lives. It seems that much of this controversy relates to new interpretations of old studies, and the relatively few recent studies of this matter have not clarified this issue. Most sources seem to agree that all of the existing scientific studies have some weaknesses, but it is far from clear whether the very large and truly unambiguous study needed to settle this matter definitively can ever be done.

So what is a woman to do? I do not claim any expertise in this highly technical area, so I rely on the experts. The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force all continue to recommend periodic screening mammography, and I endorse the statements of these distinguished bodies.

On the other hand, I recognize that some women who examine these research studies are unconvinced of the need for periodic screening mammography. However, even those scientists who do not support periodic mammography for all women believe that it is appropriate for some groups of women with particular risk factors. In agreement with these experts, I encourage all women who have doubts about the usefulness of screening mammography in general to discuss with their individual physicians whether this test is appropriate in their specific situations.

So my message to women is: have a periodic mammogram, or at the very least discuss this option with your own physician.

I know that some women don't have annual mammograms because of either fear or forgetfulness. It is only human nature for some women to avoid mammograms because they are afraid of what they will find. To those who are fearful, I would say that if you have periodic routine mammograms, and the latest one comes out positive, even before you have any symptoms or have found a lump on self-examination, you have reason to be optimistic, not pessimistic. Such early-detected breast cancers are highly treatable.

Then there is forgetfulness. I certainly understand how difficult it is to remember to do something that only comes around once each year. I would suggest that this is where "National Mammography Day" comes in. On that day, let's make sure that each woman we know picks a specific date on which to get a mammogram each year, a date that she won't forget: a child's birthday, an anniversary, perhaps even the day her taxes are due. On National Mammography Day, let's ask our loved ones: pick one of these dates, fix it in your mind along with a picture of your child, your wedding, or another symbol of that date, and promise yourself to get a mammogram on that date every year. Do it for yourself and for the others that love you and want you to be part of their lives for as long as possible.

And to those women who are reluctant to have a mammogram, I say let National Mammography Day serve as a reminder to discuss this question each year with your physician. New scientific studies that are published and new mammography techniques that are developed may affect your decision on this matter from one year to the next. I encourage you to keep an open mind and not to feel that a decision at one point in time commits you irrevocably to a particular course of action for the indefinite future.

I urge my colleagues to join me in the ongoing fight against breast cancer by cosponsoring and voting for this resolution to designate October 17, 2003, as National Mammography Day.

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