I remember my dad calling me into my parents' bedroom. I could tell from the look on both of my parents' faces that something was wrong.
"The biopsy wasn't benign," he said. "Your mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer."
It's one of those moments you'll never forget, but one that you convince yourself never happened. My world was rocked. My mom was young, only 45, healthy, no family history of breast cancer, and ironically, my dad was a general surgeon who had taken care of thousands of breast care patients. She had taken all the necessary precautions, but we couldn't escape the reality.
Fortunately for my mom, they had found the cancer very early. So early, in fact, that she didn't even need chemo or radiation after she had surgery. It's been a long road for my family, and after this initial spot, she's been watched very closely. Mammograms have picked up pre-cancerous cells two more times. She's only 52 now and thankful beyond belief for her good health.
So when I heard about the latest release from the government task force not recommending mammograms until age 50, I shuddered to think what would have happened if my mom waited to have a mammogram until she was 50.
My heart drops just thinking about that possibility. What if they hadn't caught it so early? Unfortunately, that is the risk that it seems the government task force is willing to take. The motto today seems to be "healthcare for the masses" without protection and care for the individual. The American Cancer Society has publicly opposed the government task force’s suggestion to raise the recommended mammogram age, but the task force has responded by claiming that they have women's best interests at heart. They argue that the cases of breast cancer for women in their forties are few.
Well, the cases aren’t as “rare” as we’re being led to believe. We’ve all heard of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The namesake and inspiration for the breast cancer awareness organization, Susan G. Komen, died from breast cancer. At age 36.
The American Cancer Society is not the only opponent of the government task force; both Republicans and Democrats came out in a fury yesterday challenging the recommendations. Breastcancer.org argues that the new recommendation will decrease the breast cancer survival rate by 3% is a measure designed solely to cut costs. They argue this is a recommendation that would help the masses but hurt the individual.
If an impartial medical site is calling this government recommendation a sign of healthcare rationing, how can we sit back and watch? Is this recommendation really good for women and their families?
This leads to the biggest question of all: Will this recommendation affect insurance coverage of mammograms? The task force and the Department of Health and Human Services both claim that this will not lead to policy changes, but the opposite seems to be true. More mammograms lead to more biopsies, which leads to more hospital visits, which inevitably equals greater cost. In a time when lawmakers are trying to figure how to pay for billions in healthcare expenses, what costs will they cut? How can we, in good conscience, accurately conclude that this line of thinking is not a precursor to government rationing of health care?
A retired general surgeon and former professor of surgery shared his experience yesterday. He told the story of his own daughter, another young woman diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30’s. He has performed hundreds of mastectomies, seen the devastation of breast cancer in his own family, and seen improvements in medical technology to detect, prevent, and treat breast cancer. When asked what he thought about this new recommendation, he responded simply: “This is a measure designed to help poor women die faster.”
As a young woman, the reality that my friends, my family, and I may not have the ability to take the proper precautions to be screened early for breast cancer frightens me terribly. Mind you, medical professional and cancer experts still recommend breast cancer screening at age 40 for women with no family history.
Is this new recommendation by the government task force what is really good for women? In my mom's case her healthy history and medical knowledge gave no indication of a risk of breast cancer. Why in the world would she have had a mammogram before age 50 with no risk factors? If it hadn’t been medically recommended, she wouldn't have. I can’t imagine what state of health she’d be in today.
It’s easy to sit back and let the lawmakers do their job on Capitol Hill, but when the decisions they make have life and death implications, we must not be silent.
This recommendation is the government’s thinly disguised attempt to put in place a justification for rationing healthcare once they implement their stated goal of socialist reform. As a young woman, I urge us all to consider the long-term implications of these government policies on our individual health. Do we want the bureaucrats in Washington dictating how we deal with life threatening conditions like breast cancer? As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I cannot support these reckless recommendations that have been made with complete disregard for individual women.