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The News Journal - Husbands, Children: Nag Your Loved One to Do the Smart Thing

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The News Journal - Husbands, Children: Nag Your Loved One to Do the Smart Thing

Published in the October 20, 2006 edition of The News Journal


We have gotten to know several presidents who put their stamp on this country, but it was two of their wives -- Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan -- who left a loving mark on American women. By speaking frankly when they had breast cancer, they inspired millions who have faced the same personal battle in the decades since.

Today, on National Mammography Day, we are hoping all husbands and teenagers in Delaware will leave a loving mark on their own families.

We ask a favor: circle the date on the calendar and have a frank talk with your wives, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts about getting a mammogram.

Often, it is the women in the family who make the health- care decisions. They figure out who needs to see the doctor, make all the appointments, and nag everyone to eat right. But when it comes time to looking out for themselves, too often, moms don't.

And too often it's because of fear. Women avoid having a mammogram because they are afraid of what they may find or afraid they cannot afford it. This year, more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 41,000 women will die of the disease. But if it is detected early, women can get treatment. Ninety-seven percent of women with localized breast cancer will survive five years or longer.

Today, in America a few million survivors struggle, but they are living remarkable lives with the disease, raising families, going to work every day, staying active in their communities, and appreciating every minute.

Over the years, both of us have tried to do what we can to fight the disease.

In Washington, we have passed legislation that now makes it possible for women who cannot afford to pay for medical screening and treatment or who have no insurance to get the help they need. We have worked to increase funding for women's health care research to better detect and treat breast cancer.

In Delaware, 13 years ago, a group of individuals, doctors, and survivors started the Biden Breast Health Initiative. We did it for a personal reason: like everyone who has a heart-breaking story, a few of our friends developed breast cancer.

We also noticed that Delaware had some of the worst breast cancer mortality rates in the nation.

We wanted to focus the initiative on high school girls. We felt if we start training them earlier on proper breast health, we would get them hooked for life. We also knew that teen-agers have a way of influencing their mothers. So far, more than 6,000 ninth- through twelfth-grade girls in Delaware schools have been taught about proper breast health.

All the efforts by so many scientists, doctors, nurses, survivors, and care givers have reason for all of us to be hopeful. For the first time in five years, Delaware's breast cancer incident rate has fallen below the national average.

Our efforts will continue. Tonight, at 6 p.m., at Shaggy's On Main in Newark, the Biden Breast Health Initiative is holding an "Educate For Life" event to raise money for scholarships for Delaware students who want to pursue health careers.

The scholarships are named for long-time Wilmington resident Julianne Hammond, who passed away in August after an 18-year battle with breast cancer. She was an inspiration to all of us with her work on the Initiative.

Thirty one years ago, after recovering from her illness, Betty Ford said: "Too many women are so afraid of breast cancer that they endanger their lives. My illness turned out to have a very special purpose -- helping save other lives."

Today, we hope all of Delaware's husbands and children will help the women in their lives deal with their fears.

Nag your loved one. Tell her to consult with her doctor or call the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (1-888-672-9647) to find out more information.

Sen. Joe Biden and his wife Jill are residents of Wilmington.

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