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Quote of the Week-Senate Vote on Mammograms and Other Preventative Care for Women December 4, 2009

Posted by Admin in Diary, Health Quote of the Week, Women.
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Today, the Senate voted on two health care amendments. One was the Mikulski Amendment, named for the veteran, Democrat, four term Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

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The other was the Murkowski Amendment, named for the Republican Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski. Now, there are only 100 Senators and not very many of them are women. 17 in 2009, the highest number so far. Some of the Senators apparently haven’t learned all the names in their class yet.

There is an official press release on Senator’s Mikulski’s website and a number of fine quotes. This one wasn’t listed in the text. Due to the number of (mostly) male Senators who had trouble keeping the names straight, Senator Mikulski decided to give a spelling lesson on the floor.

Don’t they have a seating chart with photos? Don’t they know the new kids yet? Murkowski-2003, Mikulski 1986….

Here is what Mikulski said about her winning (61-39) amendment today:

“Without this amendment, there would be no guarantee that women under 50 would be covered for mammograms, no guarantee of an annual women’s health exam that would include screenings for heart disease, and no guarantee that women would have access to this preventive care at no cost,” Senator Mikulski said. “Insurance companies have used every trick in the book to deny coverage to women. This amendment makes sure that the insurance companies must cover the basic preventive care that women need at no cost.” (emphasis added)

Senator Murkowski’s amendment covered much the same ground, but focused on the panel that issued the poorly received updated mammogram advice last month (see the post called Better Read than Dead):

“the Secretary shall not use any recommendation made by the United States Preventive Services Task Force to deny coverage of an item or service by a group…”

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Senator Murkowski and other Republicans wanted to highlight that no government bureaucrat should get between a woman and her doctor. Senator Mikulski’s amendment specifically stated that a woman’s doctor:

[would]…determine whether mammograms are medically necessary and would require insurance companies to cover the procedure if needed.

The R’s didn’t believe this, but their amendment lost 59-41. The bill is far from final yet, and I urge readers to keep a vigilant eye and ear on the floor debate, especially if you want to keep this amendment in the bill (it is not in the House bill).

Risk: Relative vs. Absolute November 22, 2009

Posted by Admin in Cancer, Health Insurance, huh?.
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What is the risk of getting cancer? There are two types of risk, absolute and relative.

If you are over 35, try out the breast cancer risk assessment tool at cancer.gov. There are also tools for colorectal cancer and melanoma.

Also from cancer.gov:

Absolute risk is the number of people who will get the disease within a certain time period. Absolute risk gives an actual number of people with that risk factor who will get the condition. You also may see this expressed as, for example, “10 out of 100 people.”

Relative risk compares the chance that a person with a certain risk factor will get cancer to the chance that a person without the same risk factor will get cancer. When you hear that someone is at “high” risk or “low” risk of getting cancer, it is referring to that person’s relative risk.

Relative risk is usually shown as a percent or ratio. The ratio is based around the value of 1. A value above 1 means a higher risk; a value below 1 means a lower risk.

There are different kinds of risk factors, they include genetic (I have a second degree relative with a cancer history-2 generations away), environmental (secondhand smoke exposure and sun), biological (gender, age, race, skin complexion), or behavioral (what I eat and drink, how much exercise I get).

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had no risk factors. No first degree relatives, (in fact I didn’t know that I had any relatives with cancer until I was asked the family history question for the first time), no second-hand smoke exposure-unless you count flying in the 70’s) , didn’t come from an ethnic group at higher risk etc. Regular readers will recall that I do not have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations either. Cancer was a (more…)

Better Read Than Dead! Keeping abreast of the new guidelines November 19, 2009

Posted by Admin in Cancer, Diary, Health Quote of the Week, Healthonymous, huh?.
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How many mammograms have I had in my life? At least 26, and most likely between 30-40. I want my mammograms read and to have them be part of our new health insurance plan. The United States Preventative Services Task Force has issued new guidelines for women to follow for breast cancer screening. Their position is that too much screening generates excess anxiety, testing, false positives, and doesn’t save enough lives to warrant screening for women between the ages of 40-49.

If I had followed that advice, given my two cancer diagnoses, I might not be here to write this blog.

At 40, I had survived a cancer with a 2cm tumor (found by self-examination at age 26) and a smaller more aggressive cancer at 39, found by routine screening for a cancer survivor. I did not have any false positives, unnecessary biopsies or guilt. Anxiety, of course.

As Lynne K. Varner wrote in The Seattle Times on November 18-

“Women are not responsible for false-positive readings. The solution is not to take away a woman’s choice to have  a mammogram, but rather to work to reduce the rate of false readings.”

In the New York Times on October 20 of this year,  Dr, Otis Brawley, of the American Cancer Society, was quoted:

“The issue here is, as we look at cancer medicine over the last 35 or 40 years, we have always worked to treat cancer or to find cancer early,” Dr. Brawley said. “And we never sat back and actually thought, ‘Are we treating the cancers that need to be treated? ”

(more…)

Coming Soon: “Better Read Than Dead” November 17, 2009

Posted by Admin in Cancer, Healthonymous.
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Frequent Flyer keeps you abreast of the latest advice for women.

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