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And now for something completely different.

In the midst of all this career turmoil, I had some minor medical drama. This post involves discussion of lady parts and the big C, so don’t read on if either subject bothers you. Spoiler alert: I’m totally fine, but the experience has definitely given me some food for though. It even ends up being sort of about science, I promise.

I went to my gynecologist for my annual checkup a couple of weeks ago. This trip was fraught for a number of reasons: my insurance had just changed to my husband’s due to impending joblessness and I wasn’t sure if she was in network, my insurance company decided that we didn’t have contraceptive coverage for some reason, and PAP smears are never fun. I also worried that I was going to get the “Are you planning on having kids, because if you are you better do that soon” speech that people in their 30s tend to get from doctors. Luckily, all of the above was resolved satisfactorily,  but something else came up: a lump.

As she was doing the breast exam, my doctor noticed a mass on my right breast. She said she thought it was a cyst and that it was nothing to worry about, but that I should get it checked out anyway. The way she said it made me think that she was was doing it to cover her ass in case it was something more serious, which annoyed me. So I left her office with a small fortune in free birth control samples and an order for a breast ultrasound, and after some confusion over which hospital I should go to, I ended up at the Breast Center of a Fancy University Hospital.

However, having to go to a hospital at 7 in the morning for a test that I was pretty convinced was useless was not great. I arrived, checked in at 2 different desks, sat in no less than 3 different waiting rooms, and took my top off and sat around in a hospital gown for a while as I read my Trashy Supernatural Romance Novel. Oh yeah, and I got a SURPRISE MAMMOGRAM! Because I am 30.

Let me just say that mammograms hurt like crazy and were clearly invented by a man. And I was going through this maybe a week after a huge study was released that questions the value  mammograms in the first place. I was sore and bruised for days afterward, thinking that if a non-medical professional inflicted similar injuries, I could probably press charges. Yes, I realize that I could also press charges if someone tried to perform recreational surgery on me, but the point I’m trying to make involves questioning whether the pain involved in getting any medical procedure done is worth the benefit, and the balance is tipping against the mammogram. Not to mention the scores of women who undergo biopsies, lumpectomies or worse because of a false positive result on a mammogram. I’m not saying that mammography does save lives, but we can’t ignore its limitations.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED SCIENCE! We need medical scientists that do the work that determines whether medical interventions are as safe and effective as we hope they are. I think that should include things like nutritional supplements and holistic remedies, but I don’t hold out hope. But seriously, if I have a choice between a skilled nurse giving me a manual breast exam and having another mammogram, I’ll take the first one. Sadly, I don’t think the status quo will shift fast enough for me.