A Word About My Breasts

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Can we talk? I’ve got something on my chest.

Count me among Kate’s colleagues who are flummoxed by this report. I think it proves that even scientists can be pinheads. My issue is not with their recommendations on when and how often women should get mammograms. That seems worthy of debate. What I don’t get is their finding that women should not even do self-examinations. And why? Because if we find a lump, it might make us worried. Congresswoman and cancer survivor Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was right on the mark when she said this represents a “very patronizing attitude that these scientists have taken…It’s pretty outrageous to suggest that women couldn’t handle more information.”

That got me thinking a bit about my own history, which on one level might seem to vindicate these findings. I’m a cancer survivor; it has been almost 22 years since I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which required surgical removal of my thyroid, followed by two years of radioactive iodine. I was lucky, especially given the fact that the lump in my thyroid had been there for eight years, misdiagnosed as benign.

But breast cancer was my first big scare–at age 19, when I discovered lumps in both my breasts that didn’t go away after a couple of menstrual cycles.

That’s when I had my first mammogram. Back in those days, the technology wasn’t what it is today, and it was inconclusive. My doctor decided he wanted to do a biopsy. That wasn’t what it is today, either. A simple breast biopsy in 1975 required me to check in for an overnight stay in a hospital, and to sign forms before the surgery authorizing a mastectomy on the spot if it turned out to be cancer. I remember vividly waking up from the general anesthesia terrified, feeling the heavy layers of bandages trying to figure out what they had done. It was benign–thank God–but it turned out to be the first of several times I would go through this drill, because I have lumpy breasts. The fancy name for that is fibrocystic disease.

At the time of my first breast biopsy, I had no family history of the disease. I subsequently developed one. Over the years, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (and survived it); my aunt was too (and didn’t). I’ve had a number of scares, but none, thus far, has turned out to be cancer.

So it would seem I’m the perfect example of a person who shouldn’t have had mammograms, or even examined my own breasts. But am I sorry I’ve had the information I’ve had through mammograms and self-exams? Not for a second.

That’s why I think these scientists are pinheads. Pink ribbons are lovely, but women who want information should have it. And I would remind Swampland readers of the important lesson we all learned from Carly Fiorina. Information is power, ladies, and don’t let some scientific panel tell you it isn’t.

UPDATE: I‘m not alone.