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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter in your column from Sens. Barbara Mikulski and K.B. Hutchison. As a 40-year-old woman whose 2.7-centimeter tumor was not detected by a mammogram, I wholeheartedly agree with the Mammography Quality Standards Act. However, when I read about mammography being our most powerful weapon in the war against breast cancer, I get angry.

The senators incorrectly stated that early detection is the key to prevention -- and I worry that some women may rely too heavily on this weapon. Mammography does NOT prevent breast cancer, and only increases a woman's survival rate if the cancer is detected early. I support legislation that ensures quality standards for the only tool we have available, but hope in the future more emphasis will be placed on prevention, and finding a diagnostic tool that really does detect breast cancer early in younger women.

While the various agencies decide who should and should not get mammograms and at what age, I urge all women to do a BSE (breast self-exam) each month. Get to know your breasts, and if you feel something unusual, have it biopsied -- do not depend on mammograms alone. -- A SURVIVOR IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR SURVIVOR: Excellent advice that I hope all women will take to heart. Survival is literally in our own hands.

DEAR ABBY: I've had it with early birds who imply there's something wrong with people who don't bound out of bed at the crack of dawn.

I am a night owl and my body clock refuses to allow me to go to bed early. If I try, I lie awake for hours. I naturally fall asleep between 4 and 5 a.m. I was once fired from a job on suspicion of alcoholism because every morning I staggered in late and bleary-eyed. Since my brain didn't start to function until noon, they were sure I had a hangover.

I worked as many hours as everyone else at another job, but I was denied a promotion because, "although your work is excellent, you don't have the drive to get to the office by 7 a.m." Maybe not. But my boss didn't have "the drive" to stay at work until 10 p.m., as I frequently did. If you aren't an early bird just like everyone else, you'll never make big money. If you aren't at the office early, you're "not motivated."

I am motivated to work hard, but I work better after noon. I'd be a lot more productive if I were allowed to work with my natural body rhythms rather than against them.

I'm sure I'm not the only night owl who fights a daily battle against the early birds who run the business world. At this point, I'm looking forward to retirement when I can sleep without being ridiculed because I go to sleep late and wake up naturally in mid-morning. I can't wait to get on my own schedule and enjoy life instead of blundering through in a sleepy stupor. -- SLEEPLESS, BUT NOT IN SEATTLE

DEAR SLEEPLESS: According to Dr. Quentin Regestein, director of psychiatry at the Sleep Clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, your atypical sleep pattern is "delayed sleep phase syndrome." Contrary to what some people might think, it is not insomnia. The timing of your sleep is the problem, and it's possible that your condition can be relieved, even without drugs.

The business world has become slightly more flexible regarding work hours, but companies cannot accommodate each employee individually. Some workers with atypical sleep patterns find jobs that allow them to work at home or at night. Since you are experiencing difficulty in the work place because you are out of sync with everyone else, you would be wise to seek treatment. Look in the yellow pages or call a local hospital to find a sleep disorder clinic in your area.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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