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Susan Estrich
8 Oct 2014
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What's a Woman To Do About Mammography?

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So, as it turns out, did I not need to have my breasts squeezed in the mammogram machines every year between the ages of 40 and 50? Could I have missed the two scares in there, especially the one when both of my kids were babies?

Maybe. Or rather, in my case, thank God, yes. Then again…

When I saw my doctor yesterday, the one I have trusted with my life and the lives of my children for all these years, the one who sent me for all those tests, I asked him if he would still be sending his women patients who are in their 40s for mammograms. The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that you practice medicine on an individualized basis. While certain things may be true as a matter of "public health" — like the costs of early mammograms outweighing their benefits — that doesn't mean they're true for you. My doctor has been spacing out scans for women in their 40s with no risk factors for some time, sending them every 18 months instead of every year. But he's seen too many cases of women who had no risk factors and still developed aggressive cancers in their 40s to delay for a decade.

That's what I thought. And what I'd do. The truth is, I'd rather be safe than sorry. I'd rather worry needlessly than die needlessly. Who wouldn't?

The White House was quick to point out that this week's recommendation does not mean doctors should stop sending women for mammograms, or that insurance companies will be allowed to stop paying for them.

Of course it means that.

Maybe not this month or this year, but isn't that what cost control is all about? Sure, get rid of waste and abuse and needless paperwork, but is there anyone who doesn't see a future in which tests that can't be justified on "public health" grounds don't get covered by insurance?

I always ask doctors, particularly on women's health issues, what their wives do. Ask any doctor if his wife is going to wait until 50 to start mammography, and I will lay down bets on the answer. Does that mean the federal government should pay for every woman to do the same? Maybe not. Does it mean that I expect my private insurer to do so? I do.

Like many women who have had some scares along the way, not to mention some relatives with breast cancer, I've been "lucky" enough to have years of multiple mammograms and advanced screenings. You think insurance notices when you have a second mammogram? The answer is yes.

Do they figure that anyone who is having two mammograms in a year must have a very good reason to do so, since most of us find it hard enough to have one? No. More than once, I have stood at front counters of testing centers discussing why it is that my insurance company has not approved the test I am scheduled to have. And, mind you, I'm good at this.

So I'm glad to see that everyone is focusing on what's best for women, but ultimately the answer is that, as always, these are issues for a woman and her doctor. And hopefully, once they decide, the insurance companies won't just say no.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

7 Comments | Post Comment
Regarding your article of Nov. 20 in the AZ Republic,"This one in defense of Sarah Palin", I would like to know what Sara Palin you have been watching? Certainly not the real Sarah Palin I see 0n TV or perhaps you just don't understand and like most of the press you don't want to understand.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Dee Hall
Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:13 AM
The plastic surgery that Susan Estrich had must have effected her eye sight,as she can't read, and her hearing. She is so full of jealousy over Sarah Palin she writes nothing, nothing, nothing!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Senator Tobe
Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:13 AM
Susan, sometimes you do see things clearly, and this is one of those times. Yes, all those statements coming out of Washington D.C are about cost control. Would you rather have your life expectancy determined by an actuary, or assisted by your doctor? This is a glimpse into the future of nationalized health care, and the vision is right out of a George Orwell novel. Yes, we do need to control costs. There is an excellent recent article in "The New Yorker " magazine comparing the costs of health care in two similar Texas border towns where the cost in one is double the cost of the other, and it lists some very specific reasons as to why. None of these are addressed in either the House or Senate heal care bills. They are all about power and control, not about providing service to all that need it.
Comment: #3
Posted by: red5mutual
Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:50 PM
The point that you and congress are missing is that some people, quite a few people, will be stuck in these government managed healthcare programs. You and members of Congress have the means needed for pay for those cadillac plans (in the case of Congress, taxpayers pay for it). You can go anywhere in the world and have any test required. No so for the majority of us. I have military insurance and the selection of doctors is falling now because the payout is so small doctors won't take us.
Comment: #4
Posted by: jbaugher
Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:25 AM
My wife had a radical mastectomy in her late forties after discovering a lump and bleeding from the nipple. If she had been able to get a mammogram earlier she may have been able to avoid such radical surgery. If she had waited longer she might not have survived the disease.
Governemt health care will kill women based on monetary concerns and not on the needs of the individual.
God help us if that occurs.
Susan, wake up to reality. You and your fellow libs don't care about the individual or their health. What they are concerned with is their vote!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Early
Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:41 AM
Susan, you noticed this particular item since it has personal relevance for you. There are hundreds if not thousands of other little gems in these abominations of heath care bills snaking their way through Congress. It would be interesting to read your point by point analysis on why this form of government take-over of our health care is such a swell idea.
Comment: #6
Posted by: KG
Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:04 PM
Oh my Susan. Everytime I open up the computer the democrats have gone to a new low. Please tell Hillary to bale out now if she does not want to lose all credibility for any chance of being anything politically. I just can not believe that we have to fight for our freedom from our politicians and the taliban the same time. I will always be proud of my country but I am ashamed of our politicians.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Kathaleen
Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:16 PM
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