I haven’t written here in a few weeks as I have been involved in tackling a writing class again, through Grub Street –a wonderful writing collaborative in Boston/Cambridge.
So I decided to write to you all today. My topic will be, I am sure, one of the top blogged about controversies today. Have you heard? The are now recommending woman do not get a mammogram until they are 50 years old and then only be tested every 2 years.Globe Article Here
These scientists concluded that mammograms save relatively few lives in women age 40 to 49, and that this benefit is eclipsed by the risks, including tests that erroneously detect tumors when none exist. They say that to save only one life you would have to screen 1,904 woman in their 40’s and they consider that unneccessary testing (mammograms cost about $100).
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44 so this is extremely disconcerting news. Which life do they decide is inconsequential enough to write off. Mine? I don’t think my children would agree that my life is not worth $100. Maybe it’s not mine. Maybe I would have been fine if I waited until I was 50 –what if it was you, or your sister, or your mother, or your girlfriend or wife. Is their life the one you want to risk?
So let’s just say I waited until I was 50 to get my first mammogram. I saved myself the agony of 10 mammograms, 10 half-hour tests, and they discovered that I had breast cancer then. My cancer would have had 6 full years to grow and spread; 2,190 days to move it’s carcinogenic cells out to my lymph nodes where it would then take off like a wild fire throughout my body. That’s a long time –in 6 years I could get a lot done–and cancer cells can too. The study showed that in holding off on the mammograms until age 50 we would save 63 unnecessary biopsies. I am not sure you can call any biopsy unnecessary just because it comes back clean. How many skin lesions are biopsied for melanoma a day that do not turn out to be cancer? If I am faced with something suspicious then I want to know either way. I guarantee you wouldn’t find anyone who was disappointed that they had a biopsy come up negative for cancer. Maybe the answer here is to train our doctors better in knowing which spots to biopsy…maybe this is a problem for the professionals instead of having it passed on –once again–to the consumer.
The U.S Preventative Services Task Force — that’s the puffed up name of this committee –I think I will rename my Family Activities committee that I run at the elementary school to the Family Activities Task Force. It gives me more power and makes me sound smarter. Anyway this Task Force has also claimed that self-examination is useless in detecting Breast Cancer at any age.
Come on! I found my cancer in the shower and I can name 5 other woman I know that found there’s as well. What do they want us to do? They won’t give us the test and then say don’t bother checking yourself either..better not to know…wait until it’s really bad and out of control. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
I did have a slight argument for the other side of when I first heard about this atrocity . That was solely based on the nagging feeling of denial I have –the feeling that maybe, just maybe I never really had cancer and that I went through this ordeal for nothing. I never looked through the micrscope so I never actually SAW that I had cancer, I have trusted the doctors along the way. But this is not rational thinking, this is emotional bargaining.
As I am writing this I am getting madder and madder as I realize that the ones who would suffer in this scenario is once again the lower middle class. Because if the government decides that the guidelines are to get mammograms at age 50 don’t think for a second that woman in their 40’s with some money wouldn’t get the test and pay for it out of their pocket; leaving those without the funds lost in the shadows yet again. Don’t think for a second that Michelle Obama wouldn’t be tested.
And there is where our hope lay in this whole situation. Luckily we have a strong woman as our first-lady, and I can only hope that she would never let this ridiculous recommendation get any further than that.