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 An Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Page 1 of 3)

An Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Debbie Wasserman SchultzDebbie Wasserman Schultz is a U.S. congresswoman from Florida. She has long been an advocate for the rights of women, seniors, and children. In 2009, she increased efforts to promote early screening for breast cancer after revealing her own battle with the disease in 2008. The bill passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

Editor-In-Chief Gary Barg sat down with the congresswoman for a wide-ranging discussion about laws, families and caregiving.



Gary Barg: What can you tell us about the Early Act?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The EARLY Act, called the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, is legislation that I introduced when I was researching a way that I could help use my own story to really advance the fight against breast cancer. And what I found was that the biggest gap that exists right now is what young women face when they are diagnosed with breast cancer because mostly the focus of breast cancer education is on women who are 40 and over. So the EARLY Act will create an education and awareness campaign targeted at women under 45 years old that will help them understand how to focus on their breast health so that they can minimize their risks and make it more likely if they are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is detected early. It also will educate physicians because so often when a young woman comes in with a problem with her breast, whether it is a lump, a redness or a rash, physicians will send her home because of their belief that such a small percentage of the breast cancer diagnoses every year are young women that they say “Oh, you know, it is probably just a cyst,” and they send the woman home.  So we will educate physicians about making sure that they can communicate with their young female patients about their breast health and ask the right questions. And lastly, the third piece of the legislation is a grant program for organizations that help young women deal with the unique challenges we face when diagnosed with breast cancer.

GB: Do you have advice for people about how to communicate with young children regarding their own serious personal health care issues?

DWS: I think the important thing to tell caregivers and other parents is to make sure that when you do share information about a serious illness with a child, that you do it in an age appropriate way and you know your own children’s boundaries and what they can handle. Lastly, it is really important that you are honest. When my daughter asked me, “Am I going to get cancer?” I could not say “Oh no, you definitely will not,” because I do not know whether she will one day, but I wanted to make her feel that she did have some ability to address it if she did and that it was not something she had to worry about right now.


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