Monday, November 30, 2009

Second Class Citizens Still.

A week or so ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new guidelines regarding when and how often women should get Pap tests, which, in case you didn't know, screen for HPV and cervical cancer. In fact, the Pap test is the sole reason why the number of deaths from cervical cancer in this country has dropped so dramatically in the last 30 years. In countries where the Pap has not been so widely used, cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer in causing premature deaths of women.

Until this change, the guidelines said Pap testing should start within three years after becoming sexually active and take place every year. Now they say testing shouldn't start until age 21 regardless of sexual activity and then only has to be done every 2 years after that. And, once a woman reaches age 30, it should only be done every 3 years. The reason for the change, ACOG says, is because doctors have been performing too many unnecessary procedures on young women; procedures which can cause these women to be unable to carry a pregnancy to term; procedures which aren't necessary because in MOST cases the HPV or abnormal cervical condition will clear up on its own.

The new guidelines came just days after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (of which not one member is an oncologist) issued its own new set of guidelines related to women's health. Namely, guidelines detailing when women should start getting mammograms, the primary screening tool for breast cancer. There too the age for testing to start was raised, from age 40 to age 50, in part because too many doctors were performing too many unnecessary procedures.

The ACOG says their guidelines have nothing to do with the mammogram guidelines; and that they have nothing to do with the current health care debate going on in which women's sexual health is a major sticking point. The timing, they say, is purely coincidental. The decision to make the change, they say, was not political. Well I for one call bullshit. LIFE is political and there are no coincidences.

But what I'd really like to fucking know is why are women being screwed because doctors are fucking up? If the doctors are over-treating then, hello, fix the fucking doctors. Why is it we keep hearing about how women's health care needs to be rationed? Why is our society so willing to put women's lives at risk because a bunch of doctors (mostly male I remind you) don't know what the fuck they're doing? What about mens health care? Is there NO overtreatment there to be rationed? You think anyone is even thinking about changing the guidelines for when men get their prostate checked? Or whether Viagra is being overprescribed? I highly fucking doubt it. And that is because women, no matter how far we've come, are still undervalued in our society. And our fertility seems more important to that society than our actual lives: it was negative fertility outcomes that led to the change in Pap testing to begin with. I'll tell you this: not being able to carry a baby to term is devastating, but I imagine dying from, or even just suffering with, cervical cancer would be a whole lot worse. Because while reduced screening will surely lead to less unnecessary treatments, you know what the fuck else it will do - it will lead to less NECESSARY treatments too.

On the day the guidelines came out, I heard stories from 3 young women who would probably be dead if they waited until 21 to get their first pap test, or waited 2 or 3 years between tests. These women are all cervical cancer SURVIVORS, instead of victims, because of yearly screening and the treatment they received after their "abnormal" test results.

The point is simply - early screening saves lives. Every day. And by pushing back screening ages, the ACOG and the USPTF are putting women's lives at risk. And I am disgusted. And what makes it worse is that the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, an organization which stresses early screening and which I thought would be outraged right along with me about the Pap guidelines, actually supports the new guidelines because HPV/cervical abnormalities ALMOST always clear up on their own in younger women. But what about those women for whom they don't just clear up? Are their lives not worth saving? Aren't these women's lives worth more than the fertility of a few others? Or are we all still just here to be babymakers, worthless without that biological ability?

You might think that in the 21st century women, and their health, wouldn't have to take a back seat to some bureaucratic bullshit. But apparently you'd be wrong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spot the Dick

Have you heard this story yet? About the 21 year old single mother Army cook who refused deployment to Afghanistan because she didn't have anyone to care for her 11 month son and is now facing possible criminal charges for doing so? Well, technically, she didn't refuse outright to be deployed; rather, she failed to show up on the date of her specific deployment claiming she needed more time to find someone to care for her infant child while she was serving abroad. Apparently, the grandmother had originally agreed to take the kid, but after having him the week prior to the mom's deployment date, decided she couldn't do it (the grandmother, it seems, is also caring for a special needs kid of her own as well as two ailing adult family members). The Army says it would never deploy a single parent without a "family plan" in place; but the mom's lawyer says that isn't exactly the truth and the mom had been told that she had to deploy regardless of her family plan and if the kid had to be placed in foster care, well then, so be it.

I obviously don't know who is telling the truth here, or what's gonna happen to this chick and her kid, but I gotta say, reading this story on the train this morning got me all kinds of worked up. At first I was like, "That motherfucking military! What the fuck is wrong with them? How dare they even think about sending a single mother into a war zone? Have they no fucking compassion?" And that led, of course, to me ruminating about how fucked up the fucking war is in the first place and how we should be done with it already. But then I thought more about the actual story, and although I still think the situation is fucked up (and that our Nobel Peace Prize winning President should really do whatever it takes to get us the hell out of the middle east), I can't help but wonder....

1. Where the hell is the kid's dad? He's not mentioned in any of the articles about this story. Not even a 'we don't know where the hell he is' mention. Who is he? Why can't he take the kid while mom is at war? Does mom know? Is there some other fucked up cover-up going on here?

2. Mom joined the Army in 2007, her kid is 11 months old. So that means she, single and without adequate family support (I'm assuming since she doesn't seem to have anyone else to watch her kid for her), got pregnant and decided to have a baby while actively serving (and depending when in '07 she joined, potentially only months after joining). And presumably while knowing she would be deployed to a war zone; or at least knowing she was at risk of being deployed to a war zone. Um, hello, but WTF is up with that? Has this chick never heard of condoms? Or, duh, the PILL? 'Cause I know military insurance pays for the Pill. I know it for a fact. Did she do it on purpose? Is this all just a scam to get her out of the service which she VOLUNTEERED for? Why not just wait until your tour is done?

I'd really like to know the answer to at least some of these questions so I can decide whether to be pissed at the Army, or pissed at her. Because someone is being a dick here. I'm sure of it. I'm just not sure I can spot who it is. Can you?