Wasserman Schultz Unveils Breast Cancer Education Campaign

Posted March 23, 2009 at 3:07pm

Just one day after publicly revealing her yearlong secret battle with breast cancer, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) rolled out legislation on Monday afternoon designed to better educate young women about the disease.Speaking at a press conference alongside Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), an emotional Wasserman Schultz unveiled the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Early Act, a measure that would establish a broad, multifaceted education campaign targeted to women between the ages of 15 and 39. “I didn’t find my tumor early because of luck,— Wasserman Schultz said, fighting back tears. “I found my tumor early because of knowledge and awareness.— In her official statement, Wasserman Schultz said the the lump measured “less than a half-centimeter.—Cancer rates among young women are lower than those among older women — of the more than 182,000 new cases each year, 10,000 afflict those under 40. But death rates among young women diagnosed with the disease are much higher, Wasserman Schultz noted. Breast cancer in young women is generally more aggressive, and women under 40 often are diagnosed too late for effective treatment, she added.“Today, we often fail to teach about risk,— she said.Wasserman Schultz, 42, revealed her cancer in a weekend interview with the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun Sentinel. She found out she had cancer a little more than a year ago after finding a lump in her breast during a self-examination. Wasserman Schultz underwent seven surgeries, including a double mastectomy, reconstruction of her breasts and removal of her ovaries, because as an Ashkenazi Jew of Eastern European descent, Wasserman Schultz carries a gene putting her at higher risk for cancer. She will also take a five-year regimen of Tamoxifen, an anti-cancer hormone treatment.“I thought I knew all of my personal risk factors. … I found out I had more risk factors than I was aware of,— she said.Wasserman Schultz underwent treatment during Congressional recesses, and thus didn’t miss a day of work on Capitol Hill.In fact, Bean and Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) were the only two Members who knew of her cancer while she was undergoing treatment, Wasserman Schultz said.Bean, among the bill’s co-sponsors, called Wasserman Schultz her hero.“She’s my friend, she’s my colleague, but she’s also known as one of the hardest-working leaders on the Hill,— Bean said. That reputation makes Wasserman Schultz’s private battle with cancer all the more remarkable. Now in her third term, Wasserman Schultz is a top party fundraiser, a chief deputy whip and is in her second term as chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.“I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of Debbie,— Klobuchar said.