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PERSONAL HEALTH : New Video Urges Women to Undergo Mammograms


WASHINGTON — A woman has just confessed to her best friend that she has breast cancer. They are both 40, co-owners of a small beauty parlor and friends since high school. The ailing woman, who is white, embraces her friend, who is black.

"Don't be like me," the woman with cancer sighs. "Don't think it can't happen to you."

In the next shot NBC newswoman Jane Pauley is on the screen warning, "It can happen to you," thereby delivering the central message of a new docudrama about the importance of early detection in preventing breast cancer.

"Once a Year . . . For a Lifetime," a 30-minute video that urges 40-something women to have regular mammograms, will be unveiled Wednesday afternoon in the nation's capital at a luncheon featuring a panel discussion on women's cancers.

The video is expected to be aired on Friday morning on NBC-owned and -operated stations in Washington, New York, Denver, Cleveland and Miami, and on the morning of Nov. 23 on KNBC in Los Angeles. The National Assn. of Broadcasters also plans to distribute the program to its members for airing on local stations nationwide.

This film drama is yet another production of the unusual team of Tartikoff and Perelman--the irrepressible Lilly Tartikoff, fund-raiser and wife of Brandon, NBC's entertainment president, and Ronald O. Perelman, chairman and chief executive officer of Revlon.

Lilly Tartikoff not long ago persuaded Perelman to contribute $2.4 million to set up the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program. And now, with funds from the Revlon Foundation, the UCLA program and the National Cancer Institute have teamed to produce this video and to explain that, as one character in the video says: "This is the '90s, not the '50s when the 'Big C' automatically spells doom."

Tartikoff said she hoped the video and a follow-up program designed to make mammograms available to poor women would have an impact. "My greatest hope is that women become educated and take precaution," she said. "It's such a simple thing to do--to have a test. I hope our message gets across."

Narrated by Pauley and the "The Cosby Show's" Phylicia Rashad and including such stars as Eva Marie Saint and John Forsythe, the film particularly focuses on minority and low-income women, who die of breast cancer at a higher rate than other groups because they are less likely to avail themselves of early detection tests. As Rashad explains, "Most of us just aren't looking out for ourselves."

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