We often think about breast cancer screenings as a women's health issue. After all, it's usually our bodies in which the cancer grows -- it's our health and our lives that are at risk. Recently, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care published new breast cancer screening guidelines recommending that early detection methods like routine mammograms for women in their 40s and breast self-exams and clinical exams for women with no symptoms be dropped, as well as that older women undergo mammograms less frequently. It's not surprising Canadian women were as upset as we American women were two years ago when a U.S. task force made similar recommendations.
But it wasn't just women who were dismayed by the task force's recently revised recommendations. One Vancouver Sun writer, Pete McMartin, lashed out at the new guidelines, calling them "full of crap." McMartin shared with readers the story of how his own wife's life was saved by a breast self-exam, a mammogram, and attentive doctors. Thanks to relatively early detection, his wife prevailed over cancer after a "nightmarish" battle and has been in remission for nearly seven years.
"The love of my life is with me today," McMartin writes, movingly. "I am not a clinician, but I am a husband" -- a husband who is understandably appalled that other women might be denied the same early detection methods he credits with keeping his wife alive.
McMartin's article serves as an important reminder to us all: Breast cancer does not only affect women. It affects men, too. Early detection saves the lives of their mothers and sisters, friends, wives, grandmothers, and lovers. It's no wonder that they, too, are upset about recommendations they feel may well put those treasured lives at risk.
What do you think of the Canadian task force's new recommendation that mammograms be less frequent and routine?
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