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I have been watching with dismay the new recommendations that the "government study" on breast cancer screening have released this week. As one of the supposed 1 in 1,900 diagnosed under the current recommendations, I am certainly grateful they were in place. My breast cancer was diagnosed in 2002 at age 47. I had no family history of breast cancer.
At the time, the cancer was only the size of the tip of a pencil lead, definitely not palpable by any self-screening techniques. The early diagnosis allowed me to avoid the mutilation required to remove larger tumors and chemotherapy required by an invasive progression. This year, I celebrate seven years cancer free. If these new guidelines were in place then, my cancer would have had 3« years to grow undetected.
While some are saying this study was conducted by an independent task force of university professors and health department heads, it is under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We need to carefully look at things like this as we make decisions regarding the takeover of health care by our federal government.
Make no mistake, recommendations like this will be used to deny screening to women younger than 50, by private insurance and any new government policy. Those who will suffer are women who cannot afford to pay privately for the tests (which are quite inexpensive), assuming that private pay will even be allowed.
I’m a math moron, but even I can figure out that if you add a program that is priced in the billions, it’s going to take more than "the rich" to pay for it. And that if you make big cuts to one medical program (Medicare or Medicaid), someone is going to suffer for lack of care. Decisions will have to be made to deny care, and individuals and their families will suffer.
Much derision has been expressed about those concerned with "death panels" and "end of life counseling." But the reality is that if expanded care is considered for someone older or with a lesser chance of survival, economics of the new policies will require denial of care or strong encouragement for people to refuse care for the betterment of others at a time when they are especially vulnerable.
We need to carefully question who make decisions that will determine not only our health care system but our very lives. The bills coming out of Congress that are thousands of pages long are decided in secret, closed-door sessions and are rammed through with no time for those voting to even read them, and inspire zero confidence.
While reform is definitely needed, in this matter of our day-to-day health, trust is huge, and right now, we have none.
June Van Alstyne