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Cancer Knows No Age and Isn’t Concerned With Cost Effectiveness

Cancer Knows No Age and Isn’t Concerned With Cost Effectiveness
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BY DOROTHY GIBBONS

We need to talk about new research suggesting a staggering 33% of women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t return for an annual mammogram post-treatment. This isn’t new information for us at the Rose, but it’s information that is too often ignored.

The study highlights the disparity in care that exists for nearly 33% of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Yearly breast imaging ensures quality of life and survival. Yet so many women don’t receive it..

Why does this happen? The study mentions seven types of women in this 33%. Here is some context:

  • Younger women don’t get follow-up imaging.  Is this because they are in denial and or have convinced themselves that the diagnosis was a fluke?  Or is it a part of the bigger issue of access to care involving not having insurance or follow-up tests will fall under high deductibles?
  • African American women don’t get follow-up imaging.  Again I think this is all about access to care and of course many are dealing with the issues surrounding a triple-negative diagnosis..
  • It’s unsurprising that women with public or no health insurance fall into this category. They are the reason The Rose has existed since 1986.

For women with more advanced-stage cancer, they are dealing with end of life realities that make them hesitant to add more worry to the mix. Similarly, women with worse overall health are already suffering more because of treatment and a weakened or compromised immune system. Then there are women who had a mastectomy instead of lumpectomy and radiation. They have the misbelief that they no longer need a mammogram. This troubling assumption is also held by some referring physicians. The reality is that breast tissue is always left behind, even in those that have tram flap reconstruction.

Women who did not receive systemic therapy (chemotherapy or hormonal therapy) are in the same boat. They had surgery and were convinced that it was a done deal.

This 33% chills me. It’s another blow to the advances we’ve made in the last few decades, which leads me to my closing ask:

Did you know that recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) threaten to eliminate screening mammograms for 40 year olds and limit annual screening for women over fifty? Mammography has been proven to reduce deaths from breast cancer. Starting at age 40, mammograms give you the best chance at survival.

How can we combat the USPSTF and also raise awareness of that crucial 33% of women?  We need to talk about it, share the consequences and insist on having mammograms no matter what our age or survival status.

You can learn about my own experience advocating for women’s health in my book The Women of the Rose.

The stories of real life women and their options are alarming.  You can also learn more about what we can do to ensure access to care for every woman on The Rose website.   Learn more here: www.therose.org/take-action-now.

Dorothy Gibbons’ non-profit experience involves healthcare, education and women’s issues. She has served as founder or on the founding board for the Breast Health Collaborative of Texas, the North Pasadena Community Outreach, the Breast Care Center in Washington DC., Gateway to Care and the Texas Medical Centers Women’s Health Network in Houston.  Her interests span far beyond the the healthcare environment however as she has also given time to the boards of Sarah’s House, the Texas Executive Women’s, Brigid’s Place and was the primary organizer of the Mary Magdalene Community started in 2005.

 

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