Sunday, November 29, 2009




Today’s Word Watch is a response to the following suggestions levied (largely) at women regarding the health of their bodies, starting with their breasts:

The USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) recommends against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years.

The USPSTF recommends against teaching breast self-examination (BSE).

If this doesn’t shock you, then let me remind you what the word AGAINST means:


- in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to.

Not only do I find the language of these recommendations bizarre (in addition to what they actually say), I find them combative. I mean we’re not talking about pregnant women smoking or people who have bad hearts riding roller coasters. We’re talking

about women (for the most part) who are trying to keep themselves alive by taking preventative measures against the development of breast cancer. Maybe in the next Word Watch, I’ll examine the words MISOGYNY. MALFEASANCE, and NEGLIGENCE. The recommendations put out by the USPSTF actively petition women to be ADVERSE to or HOSTILE towards those preventative actions that have already saved hundreds of thousands of women the world over, myself included.

This reminds me of that study that was done all those years ago where it was determined that mother’s milk was bad for babies. The very first time I heard that, I thought, “How clever are those guys who make formula, to start this kind of smear campaign against the breast.” Clever, but my God. Is there nothing off limits?



- a list, plan, outline, or the like, of things to be done, matters to be acted or voted upon, etc.: The chairman says we have a lengthy agenda this afternoon.


I’ve been killing myself trying to figure out why in the world any organization would tell women to not take proactive measures that might save them from cancer, and I just can’t figure it out. I imagine we’ll all be seeing the tender shoots of this thing in the weeks or months to come - the stalks that will lead us back to the roots of this campaign. And I charge each and every one of you to keep your critical thinking skills honed as more comes to light on this caustic bunch of hooey. I’m hoping some other, pissed off people begin to do some digging. Maybe then we’ll figure out why women have been advised to avoid even the most simple and (most bizarrely) FREE test of a self-breast exam. Until then, I’m posting below a letter I wrote this week to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. It pains me greatly that this organization has chosen to side with these ludicrous recommendations.

Dear NBCC,

I am shocked and appalled that the NBCC is wiling to side with any measure that would save even one life. Last year, solely because I'd turned 40 (we have no family history, there was no palpable lump), I got my first 'annual mammogram' and found out I didn't just have breast cancer, but in that cancerous growth, there was an aggressive component. Had I waited until I was fifty...well, who knows if I would have have made it that far. Women are scared to death to go in and have mammograms and I suspect this endorsement is going to cause many women who would have been saved by early detection to not make it to their first annual, age-fifty mammogram. What you recommend does matter because some women consider you a good place to go for sage advice on this topic, and because others, quite frankly, will want something with which to push away examinations that might reveal a lump. A tumor. Cancer of whatever sort.

So has the idea that early detection saves lives gone out the window? Or is it just that NOT ENOUGH WOMEN ARE SAVED by the practices of self-exams and mammograms starting a DECADE earlier than the fifty-year mark? I've heard those words, by the way. NOT ENOUGH WOMEN SAVED. Over and over again, from sources that crush me.

I am hurt to the core that your organization has chosen this path. Citing too much pain and confusion to warrant the efforts, too many false positives, too much expense. Too many women who won't benefit from early detection. Too few who will die as a result of waiting an extra ten years, of not doing those self-breast exams.

By siding with these suggestions, you've lost much of the battle you've spent so much time fighting. Have you never heard of 'precedent'? I've heard multiple commentators remarking on your (and others') response to this. I've heard how 'insignificant' a problem this breast cancer issue must be if those who are fighting FOR this cause concede that all those early mammograms, all those self-exams were not necessary; I've heard that this has given huge advantage to insurance companies clamoring for a way to deny mammograms to women who don't have a family history (like 75% of those who will get breast cancer); I've even heard insinuations as to where else this might lead. What other early prevention methodologies are bogus? What other loopholes might there be through which can be thrown other costly early prevention tests? And most of all, I believe that you've just lost your fight to get legislation passed that will help determine WHY so many women in America are getting breast cancer, and why three-quarters of all new cases have no family history. I can tell you what they'll say next time you bring it to congress: Why would we divert funds to find a cause when it doesn't seem like even you folks think it's worth doing self-breast exams or earlier mammograms?

You've opened a door here. I believe you will find that most of your credibility has walked right through it.

Maybe the truth of what you're doing, consciously nor no, would be brought home to you if you were to have to explain to your daughters, your mothers, your sisters, your friends why you'd suggest to them to wait a decade to get a mammogram. When one in eight women in America will be diagnosed with breast cancer, when 75% of new cases have no family history - maybe you will see the truth reflected in their eyes when you tell them, "Remember all that we said yesterday about early detection, well forget all that. It's not such a big deal. Turns out, those measures don't save enough lives." So what if it saves just one life? That life could be your mother, your daughter, your sister, your friend.

Not enough women saved. Unreal. I'm one of those women who was saved. And, in part, it was by you. But by the old version of you - the one that said, start annual mammograms at age forty. Do breast exams at home.

Sometimes issues have to be more about people and less about numbers. But I shouldn't have to tell you that.

Very truly saddened,

Laura Bynum

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