Woman Vs. Doctor: The Breast Cancer Screening Debate
I love my boobs. I even love the plethora of words to describe them: melons, knockers, headlights, hooters, jugs, bazoombas … My girls are small but perky and look fantastic in strapless dresses and T-shirts. I plan to keep them forever. So last year when the United States Preventative Services Task Force changed its recommendations regarding breast cancer screening, I naturally felt a little sore about it. Their statement suggested that women wait until 50, instead of 40, to begin receiving mammograms, and that the testing occur only once every two years, instead of yearly. I was more perturbed that the federal panel recommended against teaching women to perform self-examinations. And apparently, I’m not alone. The New York Times ran a piece earlier this week about the “divide that has emerged between doctors and patients.” According to a survey by the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” doctors are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the new guidelines while their patients want to continue following the old yearly schedule. “It was pretty striking — the patients who answered our survey seemed really resolved to continue doing what they were doing,” said Dr. Christine Laine, editor of Annals of Internal Medicine. “That makes me think there will be some pretty interesting discussions between health care providers and women around the issue of breast cancer screening, but I think that’s really at the heart of what the recommendations were saying should happen — so that’s a good thing.”
So, when I was sprawled nearly naked under my paper gown on the examining table, that’s what I did. I talked to my doctor.
Turns out, she thinks the new guidelines are stupid. We both (sort of) understood what the Task Force was trying to do — with lots of screenings come lots of false positives. That means a host of unnecessary biopsies, panic, and heartache over the fear of breast cancer. But, self-examinations and mammograms are what stop breast cancer in its lady-killing tracks. My doctor doesn’t want me to get cancer. She wants me to feel my boobs, because she believes in me and my familiarity with my own body. As she felt them, she practically demanded that I continue to do so too. And I’m glad. She may be defying the recommendations of the Federal Task Force, but in doing so she got my complete loyalty.
What do you think? What does your doctor think? Feel your boobies, or leave it to the pros once you’re 50? [NY Times]