A few kind friends had assured me to not fear the machine. The friendly, caring medical staff helped usher me in to the area where I would wait my turn. The light blue, seersucker fabric gown I had to wear was not as awkward as I had imagined. Thank goodness for technicians with calm demeanor who can talk any nervous patient through her first mammogram.
Prior to my mammogram, the staff asked me to complete a survey with some questions about family history of breast cancer. Family history, but not a single question about what occupation my mother was in when she was carrying me in her womb. Not a single question about where or how I’d lived my childhood, what type of water I’d drank or what quality of air I’d breathed.
Dr. Cedric Bright, President of the National Medical Association, knows my childhood matters very much to my likelihood of developing cancer. He noted that people growing up with three times the national average for dioxin levels in a little town called Mossville, Louisiana have reason to be concerned about their health, not simply because of family histories. Dr. Bright says learning how to correctly use environmental health surveys is part of the emerging body of knowledge not yet common in the medical community.
Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network says medical science is showing critical developmental windows of time when children are most vulnerable to what’s around them. He points to a report showing DDT exposure in children before the age of 14 related to breast cancer risk, while exposure later in life has much less influence.
Dr. Leo Trasande of New York University notes that reducing environmental exposures early in life can have positive results. He shares the example of getting lead out of gasoline and paint in the 1970s, sparing children from lead poisoning and greatly reducing healthcare costs in the process.
It was an honor to hear these three top physicians speak about the latest medical information in a context that relates to everyone’s lives. Dr. Schettler is the lead author of the new report titled Chemicals and Our Health: Why Recent Science is a Call to Action.
Thankful for a clear mammogram, I’m glad to be done with the seersucker gown. What if a few changes in society could reduce the risk of women developing breast cancer? Leading physicians and scientists are showing that it may be possible.
Not content to just sit back and wait for my next mammogram or worry about my daughters’ exposures to carcinogens, I’m calling and emailing my US Senators to let them know that preventing cancer and other diseases is a moral imperative. The Safe Chemicals Act, up for a vote Wednesday in a key senate committee, has the potential to reduce our exposures to harmful toxins in consumer products. Daniel Rosenberg at the Natural Resources Defense Council breaks down the details of what’s happening in Washington this week and shares useful links for learning more about it.