Friday, November 20, 2009

Mammograms and Pap Smears - What's REALLY Going on??

Hey folks!!

Over the past week or so, there have been "new developments" reported in the areas of health research that state that women under 21 don't need to get Pap smears and women under the age of 50 do not need routine mammography screenings.

What's really good here? Especially in the African-American community where (as reported by the US Department of Health), our women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40, and nearly one-third of those diagnoses are of an especially aggressive type called "triple-negative", which is highly resistant to traditional forms of treatment.

And what of cervical cancer? In the United States, cervical cancer most often affects Hispanic women, where the rate of infection is more than twice than what's seen in non-Hispanic white women. African-American women are 50% more likely to develop cervical cancer than white women.

With these statistics, can we women of color really afford not to be vigilant about our health via routine screenings? Many of us are single parents/heads of households whose families may suffer tremendously - both emotionally and financially - if they have to bear the burden of caring for a terminally ill loved one. And what happens to the children in those families who lose a loved one to such an illness? Are they pushed into a woefully inadequate foster care system?

These revised guidelines around Pap smears and mammograms scare me. And YES, I am fully aware that the advice is different for those who have a family history of certain types of cancers. However, in African American and Hispanic communities, the lack of family history isn't a reliable indicator of possible infection and women are often not diagnosed until it's much too late. Pair that with our higher likelihood of developing more aggressive forms of these cancers and our overall lack of access to quality health care and we're looking at a really bleak future.

Take care of yourselves, y'all. As much as possible, eat right, relax, and get your routine screenings done. As Chuck D. says - "we've got to keep ourselves in check, or else it's - self-destruction, we're headed for self-destruction."

Have a great weekend.

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