On Wednesday, September 15, 2010, in a unanimous show of support, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a House Resolution sponsored by Rep. Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) to designate the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of the month as National Previvor Day.
Here is a transcript of the remarks:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Floor Statement on H.Res. 1522 - Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Week
September 15, 2010
I rise today to offer House Resolution 1522, expressing support for designation of the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
Of all the cancers that affect women, roughly 10 percent of cases are caused by genetic factors. Though this percentage is relatively small, the risk for this group is huge.
Women with hereditary risk factors for breast cancer carry an 85 percent lifetime risk of developing the disease.
For ovarian cancer, most women have a 1.5 percent life-time chance of developing the disease. But for those with hereditary risk factors, that chance can be as high as 50 percent.
As I learned almost three years ago, I am one of those women.
Together with my colleagues and the inspirational organizations including Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), Bright Pink, and the Young Survival Coalition, this resolution gives a voice to these women and brings awareness to the risks of hereditary cancer. As I have said many times over the last few years -- Knowledge is Power!
"Hereditary Cancer syndrome" describes an inherited gene mutation that increases the risk for one or more types of cancer.
The main hereditary breast and ovarian syndromes are caused by mutations in one of two genes: BRCA1 or BRCA2, which substantially increase the risk for breast and ovarian, and slightly increase the risk for other cancers.
For women with a hereditary risk of cancer, it often strikes at an earlier age, when they are less likely to expect it, but when the cancer is often more aggressive and deadly.
These young women with a heightened genetic risk are known as previvors -- individuals who are survivors of a pre-disposition to cancer, but who haven't had the disease.
I was 41 when I was discovered I had breast cancer. Because my cancer was discovered so early, I may have only needed minimal treatment. However, as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman, I was at higher risk of carrying a BRCA mutation -- and my early cancer set off warning bells for my doctors.
At the time, I did not know of my increased risk for carrying the BRCA gene mutation...but I was lucky that once diagnosed with breast cancer, I had access to experts that helped me learn more about what the BRCA gene mutation meant for me.
Genetic testing confirmed the worst -- I had hereditary cancer, which dramatically increased my chances of recurrence of breast cancer and getting ovarian cancer as well. Facing my disease, I have become both a survivor AND a previvor.
As a mother of three beautiful children, I wanted to make sure I'd be around to see them grow up. I faced tough choices. But seven major surgeries later, I have dramatically reduced the chances that my cancer will come back.
Fortunately, there are organizations like FORCE, Bright Pink, and the Young Survival Coalition that support young women -- as previvors and as survivors of cancer.
These organizations bring essential awareness to these issues, and help women at risk by providing the information, support, and the voice they need to help survive their hereditary risk. As I said before -- KNOWLEDGE is POWER.
It is also why, with the help of 377 cosponsors in the House, I filed the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, known as the EARLY Act, to bring this message of knowledge and awareness to the forefront of the story about cancer. I am proud that the EARLY Act is now the law of the land!
With the odds stacked against them, young previvors need to know their risks.
It is our responsibility to empower these women to know their bodies, speak up about their health, and work together to wipe out these deadly diseases.
I believe this resolution will help in that effort. National Previvor Day and Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week, which bridges September's Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, will bring added public awareness to the risks for genetic cancers. I encourage all my colleagues to join me in support of H. Res. 1522!
Thank you and I yield back the remainder of my time.