For nearly three generations, women have been taught that annual Pap smears, mammograms and visits with their doctor were essential to good health.
Now all that is changing. National guidelines are urging less frequent screening for breast and cervical cancer. The declining use of menopause hormones means that older women no longer need to check in with their doctors to obtain annual refills. Women are delaying childbirth, and some birth control methods are effective for five years, giving women even less incentive to schedule a regular appointment.
I have very mised feelings about this. I’d love to know what others think.
I do think that the early introduction to the gynocologist that so many young women experience can easily become part of the pathologizing of the female body. There are so many bits, and they need constand vigilance because they can turn against you at any monent. And that’s just day to day life; if you become pregnant, little choices you make can ruin two lives, or indeed more.
On the other hand, I do not really understand the argument that the yearly screening is bad because there are a number of false positives that cause a lot of stress. Doesn’t a human life typically involve facing the possibility of really bad news?
For example, at the age of 16 children’s brains are not yet developed enough to give their owners the self control that adults more typically have. And that’s when they can get control of a car to drive around. Now there’s stress. Or how about the stress of having a mean boss or getting demoted, turned down or even ridiculed in a social context. What’s worse: getting a really nasty review or having to go back to have the mammo redone just in case? Or even having a biopsy because there is a lump.
And then there’s the suspicion that the reductions are occurring just when health care costs are receiving so much attention.
So what do you think? I’m really interested in hearing what people think about the early pathologization of the female body. It would also be great to hear from people not from the medically self-conscious USA.
I do remember Michael Dummett claiming that American concerns with, e.g., smoking argued a national narcissism about perfecting the individual.
Please let us know your views.