Pauline Roehrkasse is a senator without a congress. Elected one of Nebraska's two U.S. "silver-haired senators," she cannot officially assume her post because there is no national congress to which she can report. But she's working to change that.

In August, Roehrkasse and about 300 other seniors met in Cheyenne, Wyo., to devise a strategy to establish a National Silver-Haired Congress. Under the group's plan, this non-partisan congress would meet once a year to advocate federal legislation to meet the needs of older Americans.The group will ask Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Rep. Edward R. Roybal, D-Calif., chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, to sponsor concurrent resolutions authorizing the Silver-Haired Congress. In 1988, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a similar resolution, but the proposal died in the House.

The proposed congress would be modeled after the U.S. Congress. In each state, voters age 60-plus would elect two silver-haired senators, and one silver-haired representative would be elected from each of the state's congressional districts. Working in committees, members would draft legislation for consideration at their annual meeting. Bills approved by both bodies would be recommended to the U.S. Congress.

Most of the 24 states with silver-haired legislatures have already elected senators and representatives to the proposed national congress, Roehrkasse said. Others interested in furthering this new approach to politics should ask their elected representatives to support the mock congress.

QUESTION: My sister and mother both have had surgery for breast cancer. My mother had a mastectomy 12 years ago when she was 52 and my sister had a lumpectomy, in which only part of the diseased breast was removed, when she was 37. I'm 46 and have mammograms regularly because of my cancer risk. Are there any effective treatments for breast cancer other than surgery?

ANSWER: Yes, but women with breast cancer should discuss possible treatments with their physician to determine which is best, given the size of the lump.

Researchers from France, reporting in a recent issue of Cancer, a publication of the American Cancer Society, said they used a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to successfully treat 250 women with breast cancer. In 79 cases, however, the tumor reappeared, and 46 of the women died because the cancer had spread to other parts of the body. The new procedure works best with small tumors, the researchers said. Several cancer centers in the United States are developing research protocols to test the efficiency of the French treatment.

It's appropriate that you have regular mammograms, given your family history. With routine breast examinations, any growth you discover would likely be small and not require a radical mastectomy to treat.

If you discover a lump in your breast or another part of your body, see your physician immediately. If the diagnosis leads you to believe you might have cancer, consult an oncologist or other specialist to discuss the latest treatment available.

The American Cancer Society provides referrals to comprehensive cancer centers nationwide. For a referral or more information, write to the American Cancer Society, National Headquarters, 1599 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 or call 1-800-227-23545.

QUESTION: I'm a 59-year-old woman who has tried unsuccessfully for several years to shed 10 pounds and keep them off. A friend suggested that I take my next vacation at a health-and-fitness spa to get in shape. What do you think?

ANSWER: Some things never change. Like yesterday's fat farm, today's health-and-fitness spa represents a fast fix for the somewhat overweight and flabby. Problem is, these resorts can't work magic, and they are often the first to admit it.

Notes a brochure for the Oaks at Ojai, a health and fitness spa near Los Angeles. "It has been well-established that the only way to maintain weight loss is to make permanent changes in your eating and exercise habits."

Still, you may lose a few pounds, feel more fit and firm, and begin to acquire healthy habits.

If you decide to visit a spa, ask relatives and friends for referrals and then call each spa for informational materials. Find out what a typical day's menu includes, whether special diets are accommodated, what fitness programs are offered.