So there is some uproar in the US over a recommendation that women not have mammograms until the age of 50, and bi-yearly after that instead of yearly. I note the concerns and the reasons.
But this has already been going on in Canada for a decade, or at least in BC and Alberta. My ex's mom was going for yearly mammograms in the 90s because of breast cancer in her family. In about 1999, she was told to go every other year instead. So two years later she went for a mamm and they found a lump. It had passed through the stages and they found cancer cells in about 11 of 13 lymph nodes in her armpits. She had radical surgery, chemo, and radiation. I am happy to report that she is still in good health and did very well throughout her treatments. However - I have always wondered if it could have been caught sooner if the yearly mammogram had not been cut? It is just happenstance? Did it form so quickly that a yearly one would not have made a difference? We will never know the answer to that but I think about it even more now that the US is facing the same changes.
Another thing for me to note and then predict for the US is a change in the pap smear testing. When I was 18, I was told I should have a pap yearly. But several years ago I was told they decided that every 3-5 years is more acceptable for those who have never had an abnormal result (I am one of them). So now I go every 3 years. Maybe I should insist on going every year? I just don't know. There is no history of cervical cancer in my family but is forcing women to wait 3-5 years the answer? I am not due for another for 1.5 years so what if I already have something starting down there? What could another year of waiting to discover it do to me? The chances are probably very slim but how do I know for sure?
Here are my thoughts on this - it is largely cost-related. If you think about it, every woman over 18 (or from whatever sexually active age) getting a pap every year takes up a lot of time and money. I use a half hour appt slot for a Physical, when normally the doc could see 3 patients in that time period (or six 5-minute walkin patients). Every woman doing that is a strain on our public health system and backs up appts, let alone the cost of having the tests checked out and the results returned. The same with mammograms. I realize they have looked into this and found that a ton of money is going to these programs when only a handful result in positive diagnoses... but aren't they playing with our lives now and experimenting? We won't know for another decade or two if changing these tests to 2-5 yr waits and changing the age to start is going to be better for us or worse. That is one major flaw in a public system. So much of the decision is money-based, it's hard to know if it's for our own personal good, or just good for the coffers. I say it's more the latter. If we had the option to pay into a private insurance company that then decides it will cover yearly mammograms or yearly smear tests, then the money would not be coming from the public tax pile and it would free up more cash for other things (whether it's for people choosing to stay on a public system entirely, or for other medical issues). So I do not understand why we are not allowed to do this. It makes no sense to me.
I am perfectly willing to keep my taxes as they currently are and help fund the public system, but I would like to be offered a choice on top of that. What if I decide it's worth it to also buy private insurance for my family? I do not have that choice though - not for basic health care. It's the govt system or bust (or go to another country). I don't have the money to do THAT but I could figure out the money for a private basic health insurer. Maybe I won't buy that honking huge new tv and put the money towards my family's health instead. But those are just pipe dreams because the option is not available right now and in the meantime, we see cuts left and right. Alberta Health Services has announced a further 1000 job cuts (600 by not filling current vacancies, and over 500 other services that have not been fully specified yet). Some taking voluntary buyout... but the rest is a mystery as of yet. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not. We have to wait and see where the jobs get slashed before we know for sure.
There is talk of closing hundreds of elderly-care beds in Calgary and Edmonton. What if my gran was in one of them and I wanted her to stay put? I can't pull out my private insurer card and say 'don't worry, it's covered'. I would have no choice but to find somewhere else for poor nana if she could not safely live with us (history of senile dementia in my family). There are no real choices and options for most Canadaians/Albertans and now I see the US following suit yet again. If it's not working here and the evidence is right in front of their faces, why are they still playing follow the leader? There are so many things going on down there right now that have been tried in other countries but they seem to think they can do it better. Well,,,, good luck with that.