Kathleen Sebelius is cool but Susan Love is still an idiot.

So the mess created by the U.S. Preventive Task Force, you know, the ones that this past Monday recommended: 

  • that most women should not start routine screening until they are 50, (the current standard is 40).
  • women 50 to 74 years old be screened every two years (currently the recommendation is every year) 
  • discouraged doctors from teaching breast self-examination.

You might wonder why in God’s name would any group make these recommendations?  well, their reasoning is that studies show that “the additional benefit gained by starting screening at age 40 years rather than at age 50 years is small, and that moderate harms from screening remain at any age.”  Tell that to women who have been diagnosed at age 40 (and younger) and are alive today because a routine screening mammogram found a suspicious shadow. 

Yesterday, Kathleen Sebelius, (secretary of health and human services) said that the statement released  by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, had “caused a great deal of confusion and worry” and they are “an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations” and who neither “set federal policy” nor “determine what services are covered by the federal government.”  Thank you Secretary Sebelius!

“The task force has presented some new evidence for consideration,” she added, “but our policies remain unchanged. Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.” 

Let’s hope she is right.  On Tuesday, I spent time with NP Joan and my medical oncologist, Dr. Schott who both acknowledged the information this recommendation is based upon has been out there for years, but the benefits of routine screening mammograms clearly outweigh the downsides.  Schott believes this is a purely political statement released at a sensitive time in our country, just when it appears there may be some consensus on the new Health Care guidelines. 

So I asked her what she thought of the arguments that beginning mammograms at 40 would expose women to excess radiation.  Her response?  “You get more radiation in a cross-country flight than you do in one mammogram”  OK…so what are the other objections of the conservative researchers who want to eliminate our yearly treks to get our boobs smashed in the big machine…

Some researchers say mammograms at 40 should be eliminated because it causes “unnecessary anxiety”.  My perspective is that it may cause anxiety, but from where I sit now, still alive and actively working on being cancer free, it is a completely necessary anxiety.  I am incensed that any group would suggest that I not be completely proactive with my health carebecause it might cause “unnecessary anxiety”!!  What are we?  A bunch of little girls?  WOMEN, adult women, are a resilient bunch.  If we can handle working AND mothering, we can handle husbands AND children, and we still do MOST of the house work while we ALSO work outside the home, I think we can handle a little yearly anxiety when we get the mammograms.  The idiots who suggested these guidelines clearly don’t know the women that I know.

And the recommendation that medical professionals drop the teaching of Breast Self Exams?  Oh my god, what should we do with that?  Whenever we discourage education in this country we just look like idiots!  (Think Kansas and science education recommendations in the 90’s ).   Why in Gods name would you discourage women from getting to know their breasts better?!  My guess is, most women kind of half heartedly do the BSE, or forget about doing them until they hear a breast cancer story of someone they know.  Lots of women just don’t like to do it.  This recommendation is dangerous because it gives women mental permission to say, “oh, well, it doesn’t do any good anyways”.  And women who might have been guilted or scared into doing their BSE’s will drop them completely.  If that happens, I guarantee you, cancers will be found later rather than earlier, and women will die.

I guess that is what has pissed me off so much about this.  It is a numbers thing vs. a human thing.  If anyone seriously embraces these guidelines, even more young women will die from breast cancer.  This doesn’t have to happen.  We have the tools to discover cancer before it is big enough to metastasize to other organs.  It is early screening mammograms, and breast self exams.  You know that, I know that , the American Cancer  Society knows that, and I can go on and on…….

I have so many more words inside of me on this topic, but I HAVE to go to work now.  As an educator.  I promise I’ll never go backwards in my education endeavors as the U.S. Preventive Task Force has.  Shame on them.

I’ll tell you what I think of Susan Love when I have more time.

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