Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How furious can one woman get?

Okay - I thought all day about this post. I heard the story on NPR, I read the newspaper, jotted down notes, remembered not-so-nice episodes in my life, and really planned to write a scathing indictment of the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force announcement that recommended regular mammograms for low-risk women begin at 50 rather than 40
years of age. I've been seething all day -- how dare they?

Talk to all the women you know. All of us know women who have fought this disease. Many of us know women, fine women, who have lost the battle. We have the tools to help us detect and fight this dreaded disease. Now some panel tells us to delay diagnosis and treatment? I don't think so.

I've read the reports. I understand the concept of weighing the risks versus the benefits. A little voice in my head is also saying that this panel wants us to weigh the "costs" versus the benefits. Can't prove it .... but it does make a little bit of sense.

Find a woman in your life who has not had breast cancer touch her life. She has a friend, a relative, a co-worker who has met this disease head on. I lost a dear friend to this disease at the age of 42. 42 42 42 42 42

Think about it. 42 42 42 42

I'm 64. I've lived 22 years longer than my dear friend. Life is cruel. It didn't have to be this way.

What galls me most about this report is the insensitivity of it. Quoting the article in the L. A. Times this morning:

"Screening 1300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but screening 1900 women in their 40s to save one life is not." Just whose life isn't worth the cost of a screening? I want to know whose life is expendable?

Another quote: "Women in their 40s have more aggressive cancers, have higher risks of death and recurrence, and more difficult cancers to treat," added Dr. Alice Chung, assistant director of the John Wayne Cancer Institute Breast Center in Santa Monica. "When you are weighing the benefits and risks for them, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks."

Is there someone out there willing to step up and be the sacrificial life? By the way, the article also noted that 17% of breast cancer deaths in 2006 were among women diagnosed in their 40s. How many breast cancer victims SURVIVED because they were diagnosed in their 40s?????

We've spent decades educating women about breast cancer, encouraging them to have routine mammograms and look for signs of breast cancer. This is a treatable, curable disease if caught early. How many women will hear of this "recommendation" and put their mammogram - and their health - on the back burner? I shudder to think about it. Give women an opportunity to put others first, and they will jump at the chance. We sacrifice, we martyr ourselves, and then we lose ourselves.

I want my daughter, and my granddaughters, to have better health care than I have had, not worse. Why are we taking a step backward? Okay, I'm a reasonable person and a fairly intelligent person. I understand that science moves forward and accepted practices from one generation become antiquated and no longer necessary or recommended. Remember blood letting and leaches? But come on .... mammograms? Mammograms that save lives? Are we nuts?

So tonight I plead with my daughter and all of her generation .... take responsibility for your own health. Insist on those mammograms. Step up to the machine and lay out those boobs! Do not permit a "panel of experts" to dictate your future health.

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