Confession time: I avoid reading/hearing/watching the news. The news coverage often frightens me—and sickens me when responsible reporting is not practiced. I usually watch CNN while I work out. I figure, why not combine both not always pleasant but necessary tasks? On one particularly stressful day last week, I was in the gym when a report came on regarding an “independent study” which concluded (and I paraphrase): "mammograms and even self-examination is not necessary in women between the ages of 40 and 49.” What bull! Who among us doesn’t know women—friends, relatives, neighbors, loved ones—who have battled breast cancer? Many of whom could have been spared if those nodules, lumps, irregularities had been detected earlier… sometimes, say in our loved one’s 40s? And because this “independent study” is hot news, meaning it has people—primarily women—anxious and concerned, it is getting so much airtime? How irresponsible and reckless of the media to televise this report—and worse, of Capitol Hill to give it any public consideration at all? Certainly “independent studies” by reputable organizations should be read and considered. But shouldn’t that consideration be given prior to the report being publicly broadcasted and possibly misconstrued or interpreted to be “true”? And why now? In the midst of the U.S. health care reform debacle does challenging the need for breast examinations serve any person with breasts or loved ones with breasts best interests?
Yes! This is a “hot button” topic for me. Hotter still because I was viewing the coverage of this report—and the outcry against it by women who have had breast cancer—with my left breast bandaged. Thursday before last I had my usual, routine, annual, covered by insurance and recommended by my doctors—all of them—breast screening. This included a physical examination by my doctor, a mammogram, and because my doctor is cautious and informed, and because I have good health coverage, an ultra sound. During the ultra-sound (to detect irregularities not always detected by the other methods) my doctor noticed a nodule growing between layers of fat. The next day she removed it using vacuum assisted Mammatone.
On the same Friday I was having the nodule removed from my breast, my niece, Claire’s, mother-in-law was also having a growth removed from her breast. Diane is older than I am, and not fortunate to have the lump discovered as early as I did. So, while the procedure to remove the nodule in my breast was in-office, under local anesthetic, and resulted in a small bore hole closed with sterile-strips and bandaged, Diane’s procedure was major surgery, under general anesthetic, while her worried family waited anxiously to learn the results. Thank heaven we both received the screenings needed to find these lumps and we both could have them removed early and we both have good health care coverage.
My biggest concern—and all of our primary concern—should be what are the ramifications of this “study” receiving air time? What if someone hearing it actually take it seriously: Some insurance company trying to cut costs? Some elected official working on health reform recommendations? Some scared, nervous woman who might welcome any excuse not to have a mammogram…not to make an inconvenient appointment during which she will have to strip down and have her breast painfully squished in hopes of not revealing anything suspicious? Some husband or son or brother who doesn’t want to think about breast health?
Because of these early-detection breast screenings—including mammograms, breast exams and ultra sound—Diane and I, and so many other women, have received the medical treatment we need to remove these growths. But happens if the recommendations of this “independent study” are taken seriously? What about other women—some much younger than either of us--with irregular breast tissue? What will their futures be?