mammograms

I am totally exhausted. And totally incensed at the pack of pathology reports I requested- and received- from BC Cancer. Certainly, the doctors are awesome. Their reports are complete and full and attentive. I am receiving excellent care.

But WTF, screening technologies. “In particular, the left breast is unremarkable.” “Not seen on mammogram.” “Most likely a benign fibroadenoma.” “Negative mammogram.” “On physical examination, there was no specific discernible palpable mass.” “Mammogram unremarkable.” “Invasive cancer not seen on mammogram.” “She looks well.” “No suspicious enhancing lesion identified in either breast.” “Benign appearing mass.”

So, the incense is twofold. On the one hand, why did my Left Breast cells start morphing, when everyone else’s Left Breast Cells are just as exposed to toxins and plastics and pesticides as mine, at least on a daily basis? But mostly, why all the furor around early detection mammograms? Why’s everyone running around telling me they are going to get mammograms now that I have breast cancer? BECAUSE I HAD A MAMMOGRAM. A NEGATIVE MAMMOGRAM. That’s right. It could have gone like this: feel lump, have mammogram, negative results, go home fine, end up with metastatic breast cancer in a few years, die before 40. That is what would have happened, if I had not insisted on more investigation, even though, as one doc put it, “I’m not concerned.” So don’t go parading around the world like a mammogram is going to save you, or could have saved me, or might save any person in particular, especially if you are under 40. Clearly, early detection mammogram screening is not what is going to get us out of this mess. We need something radically more political.

The only things that got me here was insisting a mammogram was not enough. Which, when you read this section of one oncology report, you, too, will understand why a screening detection system (ie, MAMMOGRAM) that doesn’t work and that isn’t even used to screen young women seems outrageously ridiculous:

“…Given Chelsey’s age and ER positivity, this represents a high risk breast cancer and studies suggest that ER positive breast cancer in young patients represents a unique, more aggressive disease entity compared to their older counterparts. Her risk of recurrence, regardless of axillary node involvement, is high. She will require adjuvant chemotherapy, horomonal therapy with tamoxifen for 10 years…”

It’s an interesting dynamic, because most people think that I know I have breast cancer now- at this young age- because of something like “early detection.” They think I’m a mammogram machine, knowing I already have breast cancer. It is totally random I found that lump, for the record, and multiple doctors said it was not a palpable lump, that that was how normal breast tissue feels. So, I’m never really quite sure what to say to the smile that accompanies the comment, “Well, early detection! Lucky you got it early!” Don’t let age fool you. Don’t let the early-detection-madness fool you. Breast cancer is worse in younger women, like most cancers. Most younger women are diagnosed with more extensive disease than I have, and with the same aggressive markers I have.

If you haven’t checked it out already, please watch PINK RIBBONS, INC.

Tonight, I saw Hunger Games. There are so many parallels. And that post will come, as soon as I grade six more student portfolios from this semesters’ class….

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