Delaying Cancer Screenings May Not be Best Option for Black Women
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, I should not worry about getting a mammogram until I turn 50--nearly 30 years from now. The panel also recommends that women get mammograms biannually instead of annually.
To the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Whew! We're so relieved that we no longer have to worry about getting breast cancer screenings. Really glad we don't have to bother with those monthly self-exams. And who doesn't hate getting pap smears?
Pardon the sarcasm, but as a 21-year-old African-American female who has a history of breast cancer in her family, I know that the advice of the USPSTF and ACOG must be taken with a grain of salt. While I have not gotten my first mammogram yet, I know that I will be making my first appointment before I turn 50. I also admit to being a little paranoid, but there is something comforting about feeling around and knowing that I do not have any lumps.
However, according to the government panel, I should not worry about getting a mammogram until I turn 50--nearly 30 years from now. The panel also recommends that women get mammograms biannually instead of annually.
Oh, and as for those breast self-exams, the panel thinks we should forget about them because there is not enough scientific evidence to support teaching or performing them.
I am sure the women who felt an odd lump on their breasts and subsequently found out that they had breast cancer, would agree that what the USPSTF is recommending is tragically flawed.
The USPSTF recommendations have to the potential to be even more tragic for African-American women, who, according to a study conducted by the Boston School of Medicine, are three times more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive strains of the cancer. It does not matter how old African-American women are, we are more likely to get this strain of cancer than our counterparts.
To top things off, on the heels of the USPSTF recommendations, come the ACOG recommendation that women should begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21 rather than three years after they start sexual activity.The ACOG is also recommending that women get pap smears less frequently.
While I am no scientist, I am a skeptic. This is not the swine flu; it is cancer, and there is not one study that can work for everyone.
I recently read the story of Sandra Ann Slayton, a junior at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 19 years old. Luckily she got a paps smear and was able to catch the cervical cancer before it reached a later stage. But, what if she waited until she turned 21 years old? She is 21 years old now, and now could have been too late.