All too often, women are kept out of the loop when it comes to our own personal health records. Just think about how difficult it is to obtain the results when you get lab work done. You have to jump through hoops just to see what's in your own BLOOD! Now, a California bill is hoping to change an aspect of that ... at least when it comes to breast cancer screening. Since it passed several days ago, mammogram providers will now be required to tell women if they have dense breast tissue. Up to 40 percent of women over 40 have breast tissue so dense that it actually masks OR mimics cancers on mammograms. This is obviously crucial knowledge to have in your court if you're going in for the test annually.
But doctors -- specifically the 35,000 who belong to The California Medical Association -- are "worried" about this bill (which, it must be noted, is the law in some states like Texas and Connecticut already).
They claim it'll "cause undo anxiety in millions of women" or encourage "unnecessary and expensive ultrasound or MRI screenings." Hmm ... when have we heard an argument like this before?
Oh yeah, back in 2009 when that advisory panel claimed most women shouldn't have annual mammos until they turn 50! Because you know, doing it at a younger age and having 10 years potentially filled with benign cysts and false alarms just makes women so ANXIOUS! (Hold on, let me check ... are we still living in a time when men say we can't run for political office, because we get too emotional from PMS every month?)
If these docs are actually concerned for those reasons, that's nice, but they can rest assured women can handle the truth. If they're concerned because research has yet to prove the usefulness of acknowledging breast density, okay, but that can be explained to a patient. (We're not stupid.) What's more likely is they're just not interested in spending additional time and MONEY explaining and re-testing women who are made aware of dense breast tissue. In fact, radiologist experts testifying on the side of the CMA have argued that the bill would end up costing the state more than $1 billion, and hey, most women probably couldn't even afford the additional tests anyway, so why bother?
So, let me get this straight ... they expect us to believe that it's too expensive to give women more information about their own bodies. How sick are they to put a price on that? To think it's more cost-effective to keep women in the dark about their own breast health? Especially when what they should be doing is trying to figure out how they can best counsel a woman about additional screenings based on her individual risk factors.
Medicine isn't one size fits all. Dense breast tissue is only one characteristic coloring a woman's breast cancer risk, and if it is a factor, it needs to be brought to NOT just a radiologist's or doctor's attention, but also to a patient's. With hope, California gives the CMA the brush-off, keeping this bill on track -- and other states follow suit -- so women have the details they need to better understand their own breasts, bodies, and individual cancer risk.
What do you think about this bill?
Image via scazon/Flickr