The C Word
Ivan Noble died yesterday, at the age of 37. This was the writer who kept the BBC online tumor diary (or tumour, because he was British). I only read it once or twice, because I'm Jewish and, thus, much too scared of cancer even to read an inspiring, brave and honest diary on the subject.
He died yesterday, and today I decided not to get a mammogram. Those two things have nothing to do with one another, but they strike me, sitting here at my computer, as interesting nonetheless. I'm not a scientist, God knows, only a hypochondriac, and I am thus not qualified to evaluate the mountains of data on mammograms, pro and con. I know I'll get one when I'm fifty. I know the recommendation is to have one every other year at forty. I'm just not sure it makes any sense to do so. Let's say the mammogram actually finds DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). I have four children, so I'm going to treat the hell out of that son of a bitch. I'm going to slash and burn, despite the evidence indicating that only 30% of DCIS cases go on to develop into cancer. As a mother, how could I risk being in that 30%? The chances are good that I would end up traumatizing my body and my mind for no very good reason but I would feel like I had no other option but to make that choice.
I would likely make a very different decision about the mammogram if I had cancer in my family. As far as I know, none of my female relatives have ever had cancer, other than my Auntie Helen, a smoker, who died of lung cancer. I have the luxury of batting around probabilities and statistics. So far I've been very lucky. Ask me next year, at my annual appointment, and I may have another opinion entirely.