Exactly three years ago, a study was released that suggested that age forty was too soon for women to start getting routine mammograms, because 1900 women are referred for further testing and 1899 of them are in no danger.
Personally, I was pissed, and I was pissed because I am that other one in that 1900. I’m the poster child for early detection and intervention. My brush with mortality was a non-event because I had a mammogram at 40, as my physician recommended.
Now we have Think Progress carrying water for the misogynistic, women-don’t matter-once-once-they’re-past-childbearing-age treatment-deniers:
Routine mammograms have caused more than a million U.S. women to receive “unnecessary and invasive cancer treatments over the last 30 years,” a new study finds, detecting tumors that are harmless. The results come after the government’s Preventive Task Force issued recommendations in 2009 advising primary care physicians against recommending mammograms to women under 40 years of age. Those guidelines stirred political outcry on both sides of the aisle and slowed down work on President Obama’s health care law.
But the study shines new doubt “over the effectiveness of an already controversial cancer screening tool that is aimed at detecting tumors before they spread and become more difficult to treat.”
[ . . . ]
Recent research has confirmed these findings. For instance a 2011 paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while “some women need mammograms more frequently than others,” a more complex approach to mammography “based on personal risk factors such as age, breast density, family history of breast cancer and even a woman’s personal preference” could help reduce overtreatment and unnecessary testing.
Their malfeasance in posting that piece was a display of bad enough judgment that I have un-bookmarked their site and ‘unliked’ their Facebook page, and will never, ever go to their site again. I refuse to give even the slightest support to any group or organization that, even inadvertently, discounts my worth and right to life, simply because I am a woman, just because I’m no longer fertile.
And what the hell else am I supposed to think? Besides “Oh fuck you,” I mean.
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.
Three years go, when the first “hey, infertile old crones, die already!” balloon went up, I wrote the following::
Someone didn’t think through the implications of telling women over forty that the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t break our way. There has been a great furor among women my age over the implication that one life isn’t worth testing 1900 women, and there has been much effort to explain it to us in terms our poor wittle feminine brains can understand…but my favorite is this one…we might be anxious or worried for a few days if a mammogram picks something up that turns out to be nothing.
That was met with a resounding and collective “Oh fuck you.” from women across the land. We can deal with anxiety for an entire month with a nine dollar prescription for Ativan, and we damned well know it.
Women aren’t the only ones rebelling at the new guidelines. Many doctors are saying they will simply refuse to follow them.
“It’s kind of hard to suggest that we should stop examining our patients and screening them,” said Dr. Annekathryn Goodman, director of the fellowship program in gynecological oncology atMassachusetts General Hospital. “I would be cautious about changing a practice that seems to work.”
The recommendations, issued Monday by a federal advisory panel, reversed widely promoted guidelines and were intended to reduce overtreatment. The panel said the benefits of screening women in their 40s – saving one life for every 1,904 women screened for 10 years – were outweighed by the potential for unnecessary tests and treatment, and the accompanying anxiety. Women considered at high risk should continue to have early screening, the panel said.
Several doctors said that while they understood the panel’s risk-benefit analysis, their patients would not see it that way. “My patients tell me they can live with a little anxiety and distress but they can’t live with a little cancer,” said Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Connecticut.
The idea that one cancer death is prevented for roughly 2,000 women screened “doesn’t mean anything until you’re the one,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. “No doubt about it, I’m going to say, ‘Well, you really don’t need it,’ and they’re going to say: ‘You don’t understand. I’m getting the mammogram. I’m not going to take the chance to be the one person that has it.’ “
Nor will anyone I know, am acquainted with, or who has been stuck in an elevator with me for more than three minutes.
The bottom line is, we matter. We’re wives, we’re mothers, we’re grandmothers, we’re nieces, we’re aunties, we’re friends; and every last one of us matters to someone. I personally matter to my husband, my mother, my still-living (and writing her newspaper column at 100) grandmother, my children, my grandchildren, my aunties, my nieces and nephews, my friends and hopefully a few of the folks reading this. Yesterday I got no less than eight text messages and seven emails and Facebook messages telling me that my continued presence on this planet is one of the things they are thankful for. (Not making this up.) I’ve been cancer-free for more than five years (meaning I have crossed the threshold from “remission” to “cure”) and that fifteen people remember it all these years later tells me that I really do matter, no matter what the moneyed healthcare interests think.