I’m not even going to try to link this to living life laid off. It’s my blog, and I’m going to use the space to vent.
Maybe if the new recommendations for the frequency of mammograms and pap smears hadn’t come on the heels of the Stupak Amendment, or if I weren’t a feminist or if I weren’t a black female, I wouldn’t feel like women, and especially black women, were under attack, but that is the order of things, and that’s my feeling. Limit women’s access to abortion, have them cut back on the frequency of tests that could save their lives and send the over all message that they should pay less attention to their own bodies.
The message is archaic and ridiculous, and its juxtaposition against the health care debate is highly suspect. A report on Good Morning America Friday morning said that insurance companies have already received a barrage of calls from women concerned that their insurance providers will no longer pay for the tests they’ve been used to getting annually. For now, insurance companies have said they will follow the old guidelines and keep covering the tests every year. But what about a year or two from now? The cost of health care keeps going up in the U.S., and if you’ve ever had a pre-existing condition or been dropped from your insurance coverage after you get sick, you know insurance companies are looking for ways to cut costs. But if prevention costs less than treatment, cutting the costs by cutting measures used to detect disease in its earliest stages doesn’t make sense to me.
For women in general, the new guidelines are dangerous because they narrow the gate by which we enter the doctor’s office. I don’t see my doctor very often. I have a pap smear every year, and unless something else is wrong within the year, I don’t see her in between pap smears. But as she talks to me before I strip and put my feet in the stirrups, other issues come up. They could be about my physical, emotional or sexual health. The issues could be about fatigue, diet, relationships, exercise, vitamins, unusual patterns in urination or problems that I’m having with other health care providers who aren’t as informative as she is. When I saw her in 2008, just before I lost my job, she and the billing department in her office were able to tell me what they knew about what to do for insurance while unemployed. Each year, we cover a lot of ground in about 15 minutes, and if there is anything unusual, I get tested for it.
The problems I bring up to her are usually minor and easily traced to changes in circumstances or diet. But the point is I bring them up. If I follow the guidelines released last week on getting pap smears, I probably won’t see her but once every three years. And those minor concerns that come and go and that are probably nothing but that could very well be something that will slip through the cracks.
For black women in particular, the new guidelines are dangerous because we’re more likely to die. Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 192,370 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in American women in 2009. There’s a higher rate of breast cancer among white women over age 40, but a higher incidence of the disease among younger black women and a higher rate of death from breast cancer among black women, which may be because black women tend to get more aggressive forms of breast cancer.
Also, black women tend to be poorer, have less access to affordable health care, go to the doctor less often and have higher incidents or death rates of almost every disease than white women. To now have guidelines that instruct black women to wait even longer to see their doctors makes it too easy for us to put our health on the back burner. How many times does, “I’ll do it next week,” turn into next month, next year, and finally never? How easily can not until you’re 21, not until you’re 50, every three years, every other year, I don’t have to do that until, or I’m too young to be worried about that, turn into death?
My issues with the new recommendations continue in a related article.
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