| It took me a day to process the news that the guidelines for breast cancer screenings were being changed, nudged upward as we prepare to step into the era of health reform and cost controls. We are testing 1900 women unnecessarily in order to save one, the argument goes, and it just isn't worth it.
Okay. Tell it to the other 1899, but as for me? I don't care to hear it.
Wanna guess which one of the 1900 I am?
I am the poster child for early detection. My brush with the disease was a non-event that cost less than ten grand to treat because of early detection and screening.
The new guidelines come from the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, a government-sponsored group that provides guidance to doctors, insurance companies and policymakers. The group determined that although mammograms were found to reduce the breast cancer death rate of women 40 to 49 years old by 15 percent, it wasn't enough to warrant starting to screen at age 40. It also found insufficient evidence for the benefits of screening after age 74.
The task force noted breast cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 2.3 percent per year overall and by 3.3 percent for women aged 40 to 50 years, attributing that decrease to the combination of mammography with improved treatment. But the group found the potential harm - through false positives and radiation exposure - outweighed the risks.
Groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging immediately denounced the new guidelines.
"I think it's shocking to basically spell out in such a bold and callous way which groups of women they no longer care to find cancer in," said Dr. Linda Gordon, imaging director at the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley.
Am I just being overly sensitive, or is the healthcare debate really pulling back the curtain on the sexism ingrained on our society? The same people who shriek that they don't need the government running their health care nonetheless want language inserted into the bill that would essentially eliminate all abortion coverage, interjecting the government into the healthcare of all women of childbearing age. We have seen male republican Senators take to the floor and decry maternity care as part of the package because "they don't need it."
And now, they tell me that I was not worth saving.
I guess that once past our childbearing years we no longer have enough value to justify the modest expense of screenings like the one that either saved my life or a hell of a lot of money and heartache.