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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: We read your column with the letters from breast cancer survivors, and couldn't agree more that early detection is the key to preventing breast cancer. Mammographies are the best tool we have for early detection.

We have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MOSA) to ensure national standards for mammograms. This crucial law was originally authored by Sen. Mikulski in 1992, but will expire this year if it is not renewed.

Mammography is our most powerful weapon in the war against breast cancer, but only if it's done safely, accurately and by trained personnel. We need uniform national standards so women can be assured that the mammogram they get in any clinic across the country, from Maryland to Texas to Minnesota, is safe, effective and reliable, and that the results are read accurately. Since 1992, more than 9,000 of the 10,000 mammography facilities nationwide have been inspected and accredited by the federal government.

When we introduced the legislation, we sent around an historic "Dear Colleague" letter asking for support. It began, "We, the women of the United States Senate, invite you, the men of the United States Senate, to join us ..." And the good news is -- they did! Right now, we have 47 senators, Republicans and Democrats, men and women, signed on to support this important legislation. A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.

Please encourage your readers to write their representatives or senators and urge them to support the Mammography Quality Standards Act. -- SEN. BARBARA A. MIKULSKI, D-MD., AND SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, R-TEXAS

DEAR SENS. MIKULSKI AND HUTCHISON: I wholeheartedly lend my support. Such standards are crucial to women from coast to coast.

Readers, it is worth the effort to take pen in hand and drop a note (or postcard) to your elected representatives in Washington urging their support of the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MOSA). It will ensure national standards for mammograms, guaranteeing high-quality screenings for breast cancer, as well as peace of mind for those who need it.

DEAR ABBY: My only sister recently suggested that she stop giving gifts for special occasions to my three children who have reached the age of 20, but I should continue to give HER children (who are 6 and 8 years old) gifts until they reach the age of 20.

I am uncomfortable shopping for gifts for her children while she totally ignores mine. What do you think?

Please rush your answer because this disagreement is affecting our relationship. -- APPALLED IN PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR APPALLED: I agree with your sister. Your children are adults. She has given them gifts for the last 20 years. You should do the same for her children without demanding tit for tat. But suggest that she send cards to your children on important occasions.

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