Let’s talk about breast cancer, shall we? See, there’s a new set of guidelines put out by a U.S. government task force, and people are in a tizzy about it. The new guidelines recommend that women between 40 and 49 should not get routine screening mammograms, as the procedures lead to too many unnecessary biopsies and other interventions.
Hold the phone. I thought that forty was one of those big birthdays. You know, along with twenty-five when the car insurance premiums drop and sixty-five when the AARP starts sending mail. You know, the Big Four-Oh, the year we all start getting mammograms. And now you tell me that most women don’t need them till fifty?
People are pretty pissed off about these guidelines, and I suspect it is because we are all so programmed to assume that the nefarious Medical Industrial Complex, whatever exactly that might be, is holding annual secret meetings at the Cincinnati Convention Center in order to plan new and devious ways to slaughter innocent women and children for the sake of a quick buck.
This is, I think, the downside of the internet. Or, perhaps I should say a downside. People have way too much access to information, and everyone becomes a medical expert. Hey, I can Google drug names just as well as anyone out there, but that doesn’t mean I am qualified to evaluate the veracity of the 625,790 hits I get every time I do it. It’s all well and good to educate myself, but I am still thrilled to pieces there are folks out there who went to medical school to get a slightly more in-depth education. I like to trust my doctor, government and medical organization guidelines, and sometimes even (but don’t tell anyone) drug companies.
What can I say; I’m a throwback to a simpler time.
I have been trying to figure out why everyone is so mad about these new guidelines. OK, I get that folks think that the Medical Industrial Complex is trying to save some dough by cutting out unnecessary mammograms. Set aside for the moment the fact that there are health risks to a false positive and the fact that the money saved could go towards procedures that actually save lives. What I want to know is what do people think those evil cancer advocates have to gain from advising us to stop teaching Breast Self Exams?
No one is saying women should stop feeling themselves up in the shower. Hell, I think most people are in favor of that. They are simply saying that it is dumb to pour money into printing up little plastic doohickies for the shower and teaching women the proper technique because teaching Breast Self Exams doesn’t seem to actually save lives.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?
To be clear, the guidelines are talking about routine screening through mammograms. Women with an elevated risk or with a suspicious lump ought to still be getting the test done. And, the guidelines are about teaching BSE’s – the education programs do not seem to be effective. Nonetheless, breast awareness is much encouraged. If you are interested, here is a great site that covers the myths and truths of breast cancer.