Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So what do I think about it and how do I feel? Well I do not want to lose my credibility as an author/expert so I will try and refrain from becoming a ranting, raving, lunatic, but I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

November 16, I received a call from reporter, Julie Henry at my local NBC 17 news station here in Raleigh, North Carolina. Julie asked if I would give my opinion about an embargoed news release she had received regarding a new study about Mammography. She summarized what she had received and e-mailed me the information. Some of the highlights included:

• New recommendations from a federal task force recommend against screening mammograms for women between 40 and 49.

• Mammography is recommended only every other year for women between 50 and 74 years old.

• The report discourages doctors from teaching patients how to do breast self-exams.

Her news report along with a portion of my opinion can be viewed at:

My indignation is not just for myself, but my children and especially their peers. The toddlers I wrote the book for are all grown up. The real Tabitha is now a young woman attending college and she will turn 20 this April.

She is brilliant and beautiful and has her whole life ahead of her. She and her friends, like most young people their age, feel invincible.

Unlike most of her peers however, Tabitha has been raised with the knowledge that she needs to be proactive when it comes to breast cancer.

Tabitha could have used this new mammography study as an opportunity to roll her eyes and point out that her mother is a worrywart and she has a good 20-30 years before she needs to worry about examining her breasts.

This is what bothers me most about this study. Young women with no family history of cancer, or as the study states it, "average odds", will think they have a free pass until they are at least 40.

Tabitha has been very vocal about her disapproval of the federal government’s new recommendations.

Like I said, she is brilliant, and I am lucky!

My luck began the day she jumped feet first, at age four, onto my lap while wearing cowboy boots. I put a hand up to protect myself and felt a lump in my breast. I had just turned 34 years old.

Back then mammograms were not recommended until you were 50 years old, and a self-examination was something doctors did not bother teaching patients until their real hair color was gray. Sound familiar?

This is what the federal government’s new mammography study is recommending we regress back to.

I am well aware the study does not pertain to women who have above average odds of getting Breast Cancer. The study is for women with average odds.

In my group of women friends, I was the geek who did not drink or smoke, exercised often, and was slim enough that I worried about looking pitiful once word got out about my cancer diagnosis.

As for family history, I was the first one in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother was not diagnosed until almost a decade later, about the same time her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Up until the day I was diagnosed my odds were below average. Up until that day I, too, had been invincible.

Julie had read some of my press releases (Scroll below to Ten Things a Survivor’s Teenaged Daughter Needs to Know) and had a good idea I would not be thrilled about the new information regarding self-examinations and mammography.

I continue to stand by what I have written and advocated pertaining to breast self-examines and mammograms. My opinion is: when it comes to your own body, you are your own best health care advocate. Better to be a live hypochondriac than die of breast cancer. It is treatable if diagnosed early. If your doctor blows off your concerns and points to any expert’s study, find another doctor.

The American Cancer Institute continues to recommend mammograms for women age 40 and up.

You can read the federal task force recommendations at:

Information about mammograms can be found at the American Cancer Institute at: