In case you missed the controversy sparked yesterday by the “government task force” (can anything sound more Orwellian? who are these people?) over new mammography guidelines, and let’s be honest, I doubt you did: women should start having mammograms at 50, not 40, and every other year, to reduce ‘anxiety.’ Because the aforementioned anxiety, the possibility of ‘unnecessary biopsies’ &c., for the majority who will not be diagnosed with cancer outweighs the inconvenience of death for the few people who will.
Now, I too can dig my John Stuart Mill, but that sounds like some crazy utilitarian bullshit to me.
And oh, also, breast self-exams are useless and should not be encouraged.
The age debate got me thinking about the mammograms I had done of my left breast, the ones with USLs: unidentified suspicious lesions (still unidentified and suspicious as of this posting). When I handed my file, with an oncologist-ordered mammogram, over to the lady behind the desk of the breast screening department at Charing Cross, she said:
“You can’t have a mammogram because you’re under thirty-five.”
And I stared at her, bald and incredulous. And I wanted to say:
“Can you apply that logic to the cancer in there?”
Three times in the past couple of weeks I have been asked my age, and each time I hesitated. I honestly couldn’t say. Saying “twenty-five” seemed absurd. Because whatever it is you associate with being twenty-five–like having the rest of your life ahead of you, when “the rest of your life” is something long and non-hypothetical–that’s not what I am.
I remember discussing immortality in sixth grade. The teacher asked us, a group of 12-year-olds, what would be the perfect age to spend eternity as.
For some reason, the class consensus was 25.
I wonder what seemed so magical about it. Myself, I’d chosen 10. Maybe even then I had a premonition. Or maybe I was just a strange, precocious pubescent, already nostalgic for my youth.
Something else that is strange. During my last checkup, the nurse asked about my Tamoxifen side effects in near baby-talk: “Are you having little hot flashes or anything?”
I’m tired of having my cancer cute-ified because of my age. I’m terrified by what the chemotherapy and the Tamoxifen have done to my body. I hate that I’ve gone through menopause in my twenties. I hate that I haven’t had a period since July, maybe earlier. I’m worried that I’ll never have one again.
And there’s nothing “little” about my flashes, lady.
Re: mammograms, The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are sticking to the earlier recommendation of 40.
Guess they’re not part of the Force.
(YSC’s response here)