Health news characterized my week. First, from some recent government study, *maybe* women 40-49 don't need mammograms AND maybe those self-exams that we fret about don't do much good anyway. Second, a family friend is dying of cancer. Third, an uncle of a friend of mine is a plastic surgeon in Carlsbad, CA and reports that a surprising number of wealthy people in Southern California give boob jobs to their girls upon high school graduation. In the weirdest of ways, these three "health" items go together.
Regarding the first bit of news: I'm going to say I already knew this. Previous studies (I wanna say from Sweden?) found out YEARS ago that mammograms yield, in a cost-benefit analysis, too few benefits for women in this age range and do yield a whole lot of extra testing (for "questionable" findings) that result in worry but thankfully, usually not disease.
Of course, for the women who HAVE had breast cancer detected through a mammogram and who were 40-49 when this occurred, there is no arguing that it wasn't beneficial for them. But for the vast majority of women my age, it's probably a test we don't need, at least not every year. And, sadly, it's still true that with the worst breast cancers (like inflammatory breast disease, which killed my aunt) neither mammograms nor ultrasounds generally detect the disease (because it doesn't present as lumps).
So...on that depressing note, I'm gonna say we women should keep checking our breasts and head to the doctor and demand tests IF we find something suspicious. Our health is ultimately our responsibility and we have to be our own best advocates regardless of the statistical findings and insurance-related test rationing going on. You think you need a mammogram? Don't hesitate to ask for one.
Health-related news bulletin #2 this week was very personal: a family friend, in his early 70s, has just been told he has cancer and has 6-12 months to live. Wow. Nothing like that kind of news to make you think of your own mortality. How much time do we all have? Is today our last day? Are we going to defy odds and live to 100? Or will it be 90? Or 80 or 70? Or 60 or 50? Have I done with my life what I wanted? Am I consistently appreciative of all that I have? What could I do better RIGHT NOW? If I only had 6-12 months to live, what would I do with that time?
I've spent quite a bit of time this past week thinking about those questions. We should live each day like it's our last, but plan our lives as if we have lots of time left. We need to hold those two opposing possibilities in our heads at all times; no reason to act old when we don't feel it; no reason not to plan even if those plans might not materialize.
Health item #3: Those boob jobs for girls graduating high school. SICK. "Honey, we're so proud of you! And to show our pride, we're gonna get you some REALLY NICE boobs! We're not going to encourage you to go work with the less fortunate -- or spend time with women undergoing treatment for breast cancer -- we're going to focus on YOU and on YOUR body and make it BETTER! We're going to spend our considerable income on something that shouldn't matter, but somehow does: you "need" to have "perfect" boobs (and perfect teeth, skin, hair, eyes, nose, tummy, etc.) in order to be part of OUR world." Talk about self-centered shallow bullshit. (I am not against boob jobs for reconstruction following mastectomy, or for reduction, nor I am against them if, congenitally, there really is a need to "fix" one or both; I am pretty much against them for the shallow purpose of looking "right".)
My friend told me that her uncle says that nearly everyone in Hollywood has something done; that it really isn't possible to be successful and not tweak the tits, or the butt, or the face or the underarm flab or the tummy. What galls me is that while celebs and other rich folk do these things to "look good," the message that reaches the rest of us is that it's all lifestyle (diet and exercise, lots of green tea, yoga, etc.). Yeah, right.
So, while people die from diseases that can't be cured or mull over whether they can afford to have a mammogram that will likely be rationed further by insurance companies, you can contemplate rich girls who, at the tender age of 18, are urged by their parents to have major surgery to get great boobs before they go to college. Or, you could contemplate which celebs have had the most work done.
Wish we could ration that.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.