Friday, December 11, 2009

don't think I forgot to nag you...

I didn't remind you to check your boobs and pecs last month. I was just taking a time out because I was upset with the new guidelines put out by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. You know, the one where they said women under 50 shouldn't get mammograms and shouldn't be taught how to exam their own boobs at home. There are all kinds of comments swirling around about these new guidelines. Some say the insurance companies are trying to save money. Some think we may be getting too much radiation. Some say that the mortality rate has not been reduced so it hasn't done any good to start at age 40. And some say mammos and self breast exams have resulted in needless fear, biopsies and false scares.

Obviously, I don't count in the new guidelines because I am high risk. Anyone who falls in the high risk category follows a different set of testing that should begin way before age 40. But you know, when I went in for that mammo I didn't know I was high risk. This all came out after I found out I had cancer. So for me, the new guidelines could have killed me. And yes, I probably would be one of those women who wouldn't bother to go until I was 50 to get the mammo. And no, I hardly ever examined my own breasts. BRCA is not a common word in most households and not even at some doctors' offices. My wondertwin's doctor knew nothing about it and had to be educated by Myriad, the testing giant for brca. My breast surgeon knew about it but I never would have met her if I didn't already have cancer.

But let's step away from the high risk group and talk about the general population. From what I've learned from my tods, breast cancer does not follow any particular rules. You could get bc even if you have no family history. It could be a bad cancer or something not so bad like mine was. I asked my pcp what she thought about the new guidelines. She said it is upsetting and said it was hard enough to get women to go in before to get mammos and now it will be near impossible. She says she sees plenty of women in their 40s with bc and she feels eventually the insurance companies will stop paying for mammos for those that do want to continue to get them in their 40s. And the American Cancer Society issued its own statement about the new guidelines and is continuing to recommend that women in their 40s continue screening.

We all have choices to make in our health care. No one makes you go to the doctor and they certainly don't force you to have a mammogram or perform a self breast exam. These are decisions that you alone can make. I just hope that you take the time to do some research, talk to your doctor and make a decision based on facts rather than what is easier to follow.

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