Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Time For Change

I have always been one of those people who avoids conflict and confrontation like the plague. I grew up in a house where I was the least skilled at arguing and debating, so I didn't bother advocating for myself very much. Instead, I spent my time trying to keep the peace between family members. Later in life, this translated into not arguing with friends and co-workers, not sending food back at restaurants even if it was frozen, and waiting for three hours in a doctor's waiting room before inquiring about an obvious delay in care.

Then I had kids, and I discovered that motherhood REQUIRED that I advocate my kids, especially before they had developed language skills. This helped me gain confidence in voicing my opinion.

Then I learned I had the BRCA1 mutation, and I discovered that I needed to be my own best advocate - in researching the options I had for preventative care, in fighting for coverage for the prophylactic procedures I was choosing, and in finding and communicating with health care professionals. The experience gave me even confidence in speaking up for myself.

I don't like arguing for arguments' sake, but when something or someone is worth advocating for, I now feel justified in fighting a good fight.

The American Cancer Society has just recommended that "average risk" women begin having annual mammograms at the age of 45, rather than at the age of 40. They have also recommended that the annual mammograms continue only until the age of 54, at which time they would take place every two years. They have ALSO recommended against clinical breast exams for all 

These new guidelines make no sense to either my head OR my heart. My heart aches for the many "average risk" women I know who were diagnosed with breast cancer before they turned 45, whose prognosis would have been far more grim had mammograms not been available to them. My head wants to argue the facts: For the past 25 years, the rate of deaths from breast cancer has been decreasing. The largest decrease in death from breast cancer has been among women age 50 or younger. This is largely attributed to the widespread access and encouragement of early breast cancer screenings, screenings which were supported by the American Cancer Society’s prior recommendations. 

This is why I have started a petition on, opposing the American Cancer Society's new recommendations for breast cancer screenings. It is a fight that my heart and mind believe is more than worth fighting. I hope that others will bring their voices, their emotions, and their experiences to this petition, and that a collective voice of opposition to these recommendations will strengthen and grow.

If you are a cancer survivor, if you are a previvor, if you have a relative or friend who has battled cancer, if you are a citizen who is concerned with the influence these recommendations may have on future insurance policies and women's health, please consider signing this petition.