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To Screen Or Not To Screen?

Nov 17, 2009

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Reported by

Michel Martin

New guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Screening Task Force suggest that women don't need routine screening for breast cancer until age 50, not 40 (as has been recommended for years) and that self-exams are of virtually no value. But the American Cancer Society says no way, keep screening.

So, what's a woman to do?

Well, that depends in part on who are you.

I am going to make a statement that might upset some people. Health is the one area where some profiling is actually helpful. It is just a fact that some ethnic groups are more susceptible to some conditions than others. For example, African-Americans are statistically more likely to experience Sickle Cell disease, Ashkenazi Jews to experience Tay Sachs disease.

Who knows why? In some cases we know, in others we don't. But in any case, ethnic backgroundplays a role just like individual family history, just like social context. So that's one reason we spend a lot of time talking about how health issues play out differently in different communities. You need to know if you are more at risk.

As for me, I hit the 50 mark recently so I'll be trudging off to get my cousins squeezed up in short order in any case. Sigh. I'll be happy when they come up with a more pleasant method for detecting breast cancer but until then I am glad there is ANY method for detecting breast cancer. But until then, we hope you weigh ALL the arguments carefully and consult your medical professional.

Don't hide from the facts, check it out and decide what's in YOUR best interest. And then treat yourself to a Starbucks when it's over. And when they ask if you want the whipped cream, say yes this time.

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