Capitol Comment by U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison



Did you know that September is the official "Hug a Texas Chef" month? Or that October was "Go Nuts Over Texas Peanuts" month?

Texas calendars offer fun celebrations, lively holidays and unique festivals, but in addition to the more lighthearted causes, the first months of fall have two sobering causes to trumpet as well: prostate and breast cancer awareness.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women. More than 211,000 women will be diagnosed in 2003 -- nearly 14,000 of them in Texas. Thirty-nine thousand will die this year.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in American men. In 2003, it is estimated that more than 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed -- 13,200 in Texas. Nearly 29,000 men in the United States will die from this disease this year.

Although these statistics are disturbing, there is hope. Both cancers have this in common: early detection means better chances for recovery.

Breast cancer

Early detection and treatment are the best strategies in decreasing the chances of having to remove the breast and preventing death. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatments are most effective. They are not foolpoof, but after 40 years of research, mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer. Regular self exams coupled with clinical breast exams are the first line of defense.

Women in their 20s and 30s are at a low risk for breast cancer, but should have regular breast exams at least every three years. For women age 40 and older, annual mammograms are recommended. Women with increased risk of breast cancer because of family history, or past incidences of cancer, should talk to their doctor about the best course of action.

Prostate cancer

In the last decade, prostate cancer has become the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in men. The National Prostate Cancer Coalition assesses the chances of getting prostate cancer are one in three if you have just one close relative, such as a father or brother, with the disease. The risk is five-fold with two close relatives, and with three, it's 97 percent certain you'll get prostate cancer. Thirty percent of new cases occur in men under the age of 65.

African American men are at special risk for the disease. They have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world -- nearly 60 percent higher than in white males and double the mortality rate.

The American Urological Association encourages routine testing for prostate cancer for men who are over age 50. If there is a family history of the disease, regular testing should begin at age 40. A healthy diet and regular exercise are also believed to help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Researching a cure

In addition to a proactive approach to our own health care, it is critical to support cancer research. There are hundreds of organizations -- public and private -- that are working round the clock to study causes, treatments and preventative measures for all cancers.

In Congress we recently fulfilled our commitment to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health, which houses the National Cancer Institute -- our nation's cancer research arm. With a nearly $5 billion annual budget, NCI scientists are working with leading organizations to help stop these diseases in their tracks. With the government working hand-in-hand with private industry and researchers to find a cure, and the public doing its part to prevent and detect these diseases, we will put cancer behind us.

The following web sites offer additional information and resources on breast and prostate cancer:

  • National Cancer Institute at
  • American Cancer Society at
  • National Institutes of Health at
  • Centers for Disease Control at
  • National Breast Cancer Awareness Month at
  • National Prostate Cancer Coalition