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House Passes Breast and Cervical Cancer Resolutions

Two resolutions dealing with women’s health were unanimously approved by the House on October 3. The first resolution (H. Res. 278), sponsored by Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH), expressed the sense of the House on the importance of education and early detection and treatment in fighting breast cancer. The second resolution (H. Con. Res. 64), sponsored by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), expressed the sense of Congress on the severity of cervical cancer. H. Res. 278 was approved, 420-0, and H. Con. Res. 64 was approved by voice vote.

Breast Cancer H. Res. 278 states that “the federal government has a responsibility to endeavor to raise awareness about the importance of the early detection of, and proper treatment for, breast cancer; continue to fund research so that the causes of, and improved treatment for, breast cancer may be discovered; and continue to consider ways to improve access to, and the quality of, health care services for detecting and treating breast cancer.”

Noting that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said, “Prevention is a key to diagnosis. And as a practicing physician that has diagnosed multiple women with breast cancer, I know the importance of improving awareness and improving the knowledge of women in our country and men as to the preventive measures that can take place.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) agreed, saying, “I have seen firsthand the toll that this disease takes on everyone involved. In addition, my area has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the country. On Long Island, approximately 127 of every 100,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer compared with 100 of every 100,000 nationwide. Because of these frightening statistics, we must increase funding for research, we must find what the environmental causes are, we must raise awareness, and we must find a cure today, because time is running out for too many of our loved ones.”

Cervical Cancer Included on the legislative agenda of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, H. Con. Res. 64 states that “Congress recognizes the severity of the issue of cervical health; calls on the United States as a whole to support both the individuals with cervical cancer as well as the family and loved ones of individuals with cervical cancer through public awareness and education; calls on the people of the United States to take this opportunity to learn about cervical cancer and the improved detection methods available; recognizes through education and early detection, women can lower their likelihood for developing cervical cancer; recognizes the importance of federally funded programs that provide cervical cancer screenings and follow-up services to medically underserved individuals; and encourages all women to have regular Pap smear tests.”

Citing a 1997 Gallup survey, which found that nearly 87 percent of the women surveyed knew they should have a yearly Pap smear, while almost 40 percent of the women surveyed had failed to have a Pap smear in the previous year, Rep. Millender-McDonald said, “Women must understand what cervical cancer is, what steps they can take to reduce the likelihood of getting cervical cancer, how it can be detected early, and what all of their treatment options are when facing this disease. While it is encouraging that women seem to know of the Pap smear test, many women do not understand just how life-saving this annual screening can be.”

Rep. Coburn used the debate to highlight human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that has been linked to cervical cancer. “The American Cancer Society recent research shows that condoms cannot protect against infection with HPV.…We refuse to accept the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease, and we refuse to be honest with the American public in that a condom cannot protect them from this.”

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