Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Text for This Late Spring Morning: Get Your Mammograms, Oh Ye Ladies of a Certain Age

This morning I walked over the St. Mary’s Hospital to have some routinue blood tests—a 45 minute walk on an empty stomach that I rewarded with two eggs sunny-side up, sausage and home fries afterwards. The good breakfast, however, didn’t keep mind from my thoughts of breast cancer.

Quebec is currently buzzing about the revelation that a number of labs evaluating tissue from breast cancer operations have not been consistent in their findings. In an ideal world, all samples would receive the same rating after evaluation no matter where they were tested, but it looks like up to 30 per cent differed from the consensus. This could meant that many women received inappropriate treatment. The latest development is a promise from the health minister that the tests will receive outside evaluation in future.

Three years ago I was just a few days from having an excision of breast tissue for ductal carcinoma in situ, and, while I was sure I was going to be all right (I’m congenitally optimistic) I approached the operation with some trepidation. The surgery did not take place at St. Mary’s because it doesn’t do such operations, but at a hospital nearby, while I received the five weeks of radiation which followed at still another hospital. All are within walkable distance from chez nous, and the daily walks through the summer mornings helped my speedy recovery, I am sure.

Since then I’ve been insisting to every woman of a certain age whom I know that she have regular mammograms. My DCIS, while it appears not to have been truly dangerous, would never have been picked up without a mammo. Had it not, I might now be facing a much more serious situation with a more advanced cancer. Instead of blithely enjoying the walk this morning, I might be consumed with worry—and not at all certain that the message I would get when the tissue sample results came back would be reliable. Certainly my treatment options would likely be more drastic than the treatment I received and which seems to have been right one.

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