Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a 42-year-old Democratic representative from Florida, is advocating legislation pushing for early detection and breast cancer screening for women between the ages of 15 and 40. Her proposals come on the heels of the dramatic revelation that she spent the past year struggling with and defeating breast cancer. However, her proposal has met with resistance from the scientific community on the grounds that no reliable form of early detection exists for the age group in question, according to Lesley Clark of McClatchy Newspapers.
The Cancer Letter‘s Paul Goldberg has chronicled the controversy, detailing expert efforts to educate Wasserman Schultz and co-sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the limitations and dangers of early screening (subscription needed).
In recent weeks, several prominent scientists and public health experts attempted to explain to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that their bill to introduce breast cancer screening in junior high school could do more harm than good.
These experts included the chief physician of the American Cancer Society, an NIH cancer prevention expert, and a prominent breast cancer epidemiologist, who attempted to acquaint these lawmakers and their staff members with the fundamentals of epidemiology.
For the McClatchy story, Clark spoke with experts who picked the bill apart, disputing everything from current knowledge of breast-cancer risk factors in younger women to the effectiveness of self-examinations in that age group.
In a March press release, Wasserman Schultz laid out her views on the importance of screening:
“Some people might say I was lucky. While I certainly was fortunate enough to have access to good health care, I didn’t find my tumor early because of luck. I found my tumor early because of knowledge and awareness. I knew that I should perform breast self-exams, and I was aware of what my body was supposed to feel like. We need to ensure that every young woman in America can rely on more than luck. Their survival depends on it.”
Wasserman Schultz may want to consider the expert input, keeping in mind what she said after the Terri Schiavo controversy (from Jewish Times of South Jersey): “The Congress is not an objective body. It is a partisan, political body. Our members are not doctors or bioethicists. We are elected officials.”