Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Mammogram Guidelines--Bad News

I must say that it came as a shock to me when I heard Katie Couric announce on the nightly news that the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends women wait until they are 50--instead of 40--to receive their first annual mammogram. I was told by my doctor that breast cancer had begun manifesting in my body in my late '40s--years before it had been finally detected when I was 51 years old. What's more, the doctors discovered I had Stage 3, locally advanced breast cancer--a far cry from early stage diagnosis.

The statistics cannot be ignored. The survival rate for women with breast cancer has steadily risen--due in large part to early diagnosis. Hail to the women who have faithfully had annual mammograms throughout their 40s. There are countless stories of lives saved because of it. I myself am guilty of skipping my mammogram in the year 2006 and 2007 and it has cost me dearly.

By the time I got around to my 2008 mammogram, the picture wasn't so pretty. That was the year I turned 51. I remember thinking, if I had just had that 2006 and 2007 mammogram, I wouldn't have felt like I was a day late and a dollar short. Like Sheryl Crow's early detection, maybe I could have gotten away with a mere lumpectomy and 30 days of radiation. Instead, my recovery has dragged out two years--when you include the breast reconstruction part.

Just think how different my journey would be today, if only. This new recommendation is taking options away from women. If their insurance companies refuse to pay for their mammograms in their 40s and they have to pay out of pocket, there will be a lot more women saying, if only. That's jut not fair when we've come so far beating breast cancer.

The U.S. has always been a world leader, because we've lead by example in so many areas. This is a giant leap backwards for preventative health. In light of this pending health care reform bill. That's truly a tragedy. Somehow, someway, we have to fight this. Every woman should have the health care system on their side to prevent the advancement of breast cancer.

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