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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

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A member of Congress who is also a breast cancer survive credits early detection with literally saving her life.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, strongly opposes these new recommendations.

She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: You're welcome.

BLITZER: When you saw this report and read it, I assume you were shocked -- that women in their 40s no longer should routinely get an annual mammogram or even do these self-exams.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: These are very disturbing recommendations. As someone who found my own breast cancer through a breast self-exam and had a mammogram, and knowing that there are tens of thousands of women from 40 to 49 years old in this country that are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and that it's often diagnosed at a later stage and is more aggressive, to say that women in that 10 year age gap should not get mammograms is just totally inappropriate.

BLITZER: And you were how old when you...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I was 41.

BLITZER: You were 41.

So you would have fit in this category?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.

BLITZER: They do say that women who have a history of breast cancer in their family should get these mammograms.

Did you have a history of breast cancer in your family? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I didn't have a history of breast cancer in my family. I had two great aunts. It turned out that, ultimately, I was diagnosed as having the breast cancer gene mutation. But the bottom line is that instead of making things more clear for women, this task force's recommendations are making things clear as mud -- totally confusing women. The American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and all the major cancer organizations continue to recommend and disagree with these findings, that women over than -- older than 40 should have a routine mammogram every year. And that will save lives.

BLITZER: The -- this -- what's, I guess, worrying to you and to a lot of folks out there, this study that was released has the stamp of the U.S. government on it. And it sounds very authoritative. They're basically saying all these mammograms -- all these exams, they're simply putting a lot of women needlessly through some mental anguish. If they -- if they feel something, if they see something, they have to go through mammograms or biopsies and could cause them all sorts of pain.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That is so patronizing. I mean to assume that women, armed with more information about their own breast health, would simply get hysterical and have anxiety and not know what to do and not make a sound decision, in consultation with their health care professional, is patronizing. We need to make sure that women get more information, not less, and make sure that women are screened, because we know that early detection and screening saves lives. We've actually had a drop -- since women have gotten screenings and mammograms older than 40 -- a drop in the death rate of women. And we know that's directly because of the early detection.

BLITZER: Now there's some concern out there in connection with the current health care bill. It's a connection with health care insurance in general. If the U.S. government puts out a recommendation like this and says, you know what, women in their 40s don't need mammograms, which can be expensive, health insurance companies are going to say we're not paying for any more mammograms, so forget about it.

How worried are you about that?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it's important to know this is not the U.S. government's recommendation. The Department of Health and Human Services has not endorsed these recommendations. This is simply an independent task force that is providing these recommendations to the U.S. government. And they are, I know, contemplating them and reviewing those recommendations.

BLITZER: But even...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But that is very troubling.

BLITZER: But having said that, even if there is a recommendation like this, that could convince a health insurance company, we're not paying for mammograms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's the most troubling part about this, is right when we're trying to reform our health care system, change it from a sick care system to one that's focused on prevention, this task force is recommending that women 40 to 49 years old don't have preventive screenings to potentially detect breast cancer early. And insurance companies could start to use that as standard practice in -- for coverage decisions, especially because health insurance companies are what's driving health care (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: How is your legislation moving forward, because you have specific legislation that you hope can fix this?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And The Early Act, which is my legislation that would help educate women young women focusing on their breast health, if these recommendations go forward, all the more reason why we are going to need to educate individual women, because then they are going to need to be armed as individuals with all the information they need to know whether they're going to need to get a mammogram or not.

But I'm hopeful that these recommendations will just be put aside, where they belong.

BLITZER: We'll see if they will or won't.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Wolf.

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