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Am I Going to Die?

Will I die from this?  Probably not.  Even though I lack capital, I have decent educational and social resources.

I cannot help noticing that safeguarding my own life requires a far different energy from that which went into saving my child’s life.  Is this not a major theme of women’s lives, sacrificing their own health and well being to protect that of their children?

Is this not the message of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?  For once, put yourself first.  Insist on good care.  Don’t be too late, not with a potential cancer.

Will the woman who lacks my resources die from these circumstances?  If she is as tough as my waitress friend, probably not.  If she is as passive and outgunned as the women in the waiting room at the free clinic seemed to be, your guess.

What I Know for Sure

Oprah poses the question What do  you know for sure? in the October issue of O Magazine.

This is what I know for sure:  The spin cycle of medical referrals for suspected cancers is a black hole, particularly for women/single parents.  Radiologists, the near invisible specialists in this cycle, do not take nearly enough responsibility for results.

The spin of local referrals may be potentially lethal for patients, but the ineptitude therein — borne of what, cost saving measures? — may pale in comparison to the black hole that is interdepartmental communication at major medical centers.  

This I also know for sure.  The American Cancer Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation are asleep at the wheel about what it takes to beat one’s way through the system, even as Armstrong’s autobiography documents the near superhuman effort (and wealth, and connections) necessary to secure best practices on a cancer diagnosis.

Second opinions as well as clear-cut information about patients’ rights to the same are NOT profitable for insurance companies — certainly not as profitable as the “wait and see” stance that could have gotten Sheryl Crow killed had she not trusted her instincts.

Arrogance plays a role.  To wit, it is nearly impossible to predict which physician will view a request for a second opinion as insult.  AMA protests to the contrary, the patient feedback loop appears to be nearly nonexistent.  AMA leaders have learned nothing from the new e-medicine.  The patient leaves the office, and the doctor is out.

In a free market system such as ours, the much vaunted “war on cancer” dedicated to saving lives unnecessarily lost to the disease is at heart hypocritical.  Decrease in mortality rates over the last few decades is due primarily to improved systems for screening, i.e., early detection, not to the (far more lucrative) clinical trials and pharmaceutical research that have hijacked the system.  The PR offensive of the latter, however, has been such that most patients cannot think through this fact.  The implications are too frightening.

Most of all, I know that nobody’s looking — not even Oprah — as every year American women fall silent victim to the spin cycle.

Yes, women over 40 with average risk factors should get a yearly mammogram, but what next?  Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over.

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