I’ve decided never to have another mammogram. (Wait for the gasps, guffaws and shaking fingers.) That’s right. I’m defying peer pressure and current medical beliefs for common sense.
Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment to a mammogram from last spring. The reason for the follow-up was that the picture had changed from the last one I’d had several years earlier. Duh. Tissue changes. Our bodies change. The radiologist didn’t think it was a problem but said to come back just to make sure.
So I went. I didn’t put on deoderant because apparently that affects the outcome. The tech tried and tried to move my hair behind my ear because apparently that affects the outcome. Hmmm…the doctors can’t tell the difference between hair and the tissue inside my breast? Wow, I’m impressed with medical expertise. We’ve come so far.
“Are you still taking birth control pills?” the tech asked.
I looked at her quizzically because I’ve only ever taken birth control for a total of eight months of my life, when I was 29.
“Um, no,” I said. “Why?”
“Well, if you’re taking hormones, we need to know because that can affect breast health.”
Oh. They wanted to know what I do in my life that could impact my breast health. OK. So I asked, “Do you want to know how long I breastfed?” (answer: 5 1/2 years)
She shook her head. “Nope. We don’t need to know that.”
Um, but if you breastfeed for at least six years or longer, you severely diminish your chance of ever having breast cancer. But they don’t need to know that type of history. Just the chemical intrusions. Just the things pushed by big pharamceuticals, which drastically influence the way we practice medicine anyway.
Did they want to know how I eat? How much I exercise? Whether I do self-exams? Nope. Nothing natural in my life factored into this examination. Just prescriptions and other people’s health.
A friend who is an OB/GYN told me she had all of one day in medical school to learn about breastfeeding and how it might benefit her patients. In comparison, how much time do doctors spend being wined and dined by pharmaceutical reps? I can tell you breastfeeding specialists aren’t lobbying nearly as hard or with as much money behind them to get their fair share of attention.
And that’s just ONE choice that impacts breast health for the positive. There are so many others.
My results are all well and good. No problem, come back in six months.
The thing is, I don’t want to go back. I don’t believe this test does much to forecast the likelihood of me having breast cancer. I have friends who’ve had it, who went religiously for their yearly mammograms, and the tests never found anything. They found it themselves, during self-exams at home.
I’ve heard the logic that this is the best we have and it does catch cancer in early stages, so do it. I’ve also read that mammograms might cause damage to breast tissue and result in health problems you wouldn’t otherwise have.
I know this is the latest, greatest medicine has to offer. I know not all of it is hooey and hocus-pocus. But I am going on the record as saying some of it IS – and a lot of what the medical establishment knows today is, well, what they know TODAY. Who knows what they’ll learn tomorrow, and how that will change our diagnoses, prognoses and prescriptions.
Last week, I was honored by United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit as their Volunteer of the Year. An amazing man was the emcee for the night, a 62-year-old professor and lawyer who has CP. At his birth, the doctor told his parents to put him in an institution and go have another baby. They said he’d never walk, he wouldn’t live past 40.
As he stood tall and proud, walking beautifully, talking fluently, he relayed his wish on his last birthday: “That those doctors could see me today,” he said. “Because they’re all dead and I am alive and well.”
I am full-on admitting that I am not a medical professional, I did not go to medical school, so I have no expertise.
That said, I trust my instincts and I KNOW that in our world today, the common perception is to follow what everyone else says because you can’t possibly be the expert on your own health. The common path is NOT to learn how what we eat and where we live and what we expose ourselves to can impact our health.
Who better to be expert on my health than ME?
So I’m putting my foot down and taking my health into my own hands. I don’t care what flak comes my way. I am used to swimming upstream. If they can’t tell the difference between anti-persperant and cancer, well, they’re not who I need to turn to as authority on my health.
I’m trusting myself. And that’s my last word.