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Public Statements

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to support House Resolution 971, which underscores the importance of access to breast cancer screening for all women.

As many of you know, last month the United States Preventive Services Task Force issued guidelines regarding mammography screening for women. These guidelines reflect a change from USPSTF mammography recommendations that were issued in 2002, in that they recommend against routine screening mammography for women ages 40 to 49. But the new guidelines conflict with many of the well-established recommendations from the American Medical Association, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Cancer Society, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

In addition, numerous studies and scientific research over the past 20 years have confirmed that annual mammograms are of value to women ages 40 to 49. In fact, the task force itself concluded that screening women in their forties would reduce their risk of death from breast cancer by 15 percent, while finding that screenings for women in their fifties would reduce their risk of death from breast cancer by 14 percent. As a result, many young women and health care providers have been left feeling uncertain and concerned.

Recommendations like those the task force made are supposed to provide clarity for doctors and their patients. Unfortunately, the guidelines issued by the task force left most women and oncologists baffled. Currently, there is no available breast cancer screening tool that is perfect, but what is clear is that intervention through routine screening for breast cancer using mammography can save the lives of women at a time when medical science is unable to prevent this disease.

At the end of the day, mammography screening saves lives. And I offer this resolution to underscore the House's commitment to expanding access to preventive health care for women. This resolution underscores the sense of the House that the task force recommendations must not be used by insurers who are, at the end of the day, getting in between women and their doctors and getting women the access that they need to preventive services, and that they must not be used by insurers to deny women coverage for routine screenings.

It also urges the National Cancer Institute to invest and provide leadership to provide research to develop more effective research tools and strategies for improving the detection of breast cancer.

While we develop better tools for screening, we cannot leave certain women, particularly young women, with nothing, which is what the task force recommendations essentially did.

To be sure, while we have come a long way in the fight against breast cancer, we still have a long way to go. This year, in the United States alone, over 190,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; 40,000 of them will not survive. That is why we cannot rest in our efforts to fund research and find a cure for this vicious disease, and it is why we cannot rest in our efforts to provide education and awareness for all women. We must ensure that they have access to screening and treatment, and we must ensure that we do all we can to support the more than 2 1/2 million survivors that live in our country alone today.

As many of you know, and has been gratefully acknowledged, I recently had my own battle with breast cancer, and I am so grateful and humbled to count myself among this growing group of survivors. I was fortunate to have the access to the treatment and support that I needed to win my own fight. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this resolution to make sure that everyone has that same opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, since the task force issued these guidelines, I have spoken to so many young survivors who have been left feeling so frustrated and as if their lives somehow mattered less than the lives of older women. And this resolution sends a message to those young women across America today that that is not so, that the House of Representatives, that the United States Government, cares about all women's lives.

And with all due respect to my good friend, Mrs. Blackburn, whom I greatly respect and I appreciate your support for this resolution, what this resolution does not do, and what the task force guidelines do not do, and what our health care reform bill does not do, is it does not ration health care. The gentlelady, if she reads the text of the health care reform legislation more clearly, will see that our language in our health care reform bill is a floor. The gentlelady should know that the Secretary of Health and Human Services can go beyond the task force's recommendations, that they can go further, and that at the very least the health care reform bill that we passed off the floor of this House ensures that women get access, all women get access to the appropriate preventive screening that they need and ensures that that coverage is free. And the Health and Human Services Secretary can go even further than those task force recommendations that are labeled at an A and at a B level.

And with that, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the indulgence of the leadership and the support of my colleagues. And I want to particularly single out the colleague that sits to the left of me for being a leader on issues that are important to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. He has been an incredible advocate for young women survivors, and I greatly appreciate it.

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