By Dana Goldstein
November 20, 2009
Carly Fiorina, once the most powerful businesswoman in America and now a Republican candidate for the California Senate seat now held by Barbara Boxer, no longer sports her trademark, playful blond pixie cut. Fiorina learned she had breast cancer last February and underwent surgery in March. Just a month after finishing chemotherapy in early October, she announced her Senate run, hitting the campaign trail with a stylish buzz cut. So when the U.S. Preventive Task Force, a government-appointed panel of medical experts, announced Monday that it no longer recommends routine mammograms and breast self-exams for women under 50 – and that even women over 50 should have the procedure only every other year – Fiorina, 55, had a lot to say.
“It’s clear from my own experience and the experience of millions of other women that this new recommendation is not going to save lives,” she says.
What was your reaction to the new recommendations on mammograms and breast self-exams?
I was really shocked and disturbed because of my own personal experience. I discovered my own lump two weeks after receiving a clear mammogram. So had I not been in the habit of self-examination, I doubt I would have found it. And had I been following these recommendations, I would have waited a whole two years for my next mammogram, and I’m not quite sure I’d be alive today.
Following the outcry from many breast-cancer survivors after this news broke, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius advised, “Keep doing what you have been doing… talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you.” How do you interpret that, politically?
At the very least, it’s confusing. At the very greatest, it suggests that this may be what happens when you have panels of so-called experts debating how to lower the costs of health care without considering what it does to the quality of health care.
How can we balance concerns about public health costs while respecting the fact that many survivors feel they owe their lives to a mammogram?
Well, I guess what I’d say is that in my experience in business, the best way to reduce costs is actually to focus on quality…A test that clearly detects cancer and can save lives is something we shouldn’t be cutting out if we’re focusing on patients’ quality care.
And of course, beyond cost, this is a very emotional issue.
Well, one in six women now are diagnosed with breast cancer. You can’t tell me that diagnosis rate – and early diagnosis is key – hasn’t been improved by self-exams and mammograms…It defies common sense to say that women shouldn’t be vigilant about their own health, through both self-exams and regular mammograms.
Does government have a role in helping people to understand new medical research, in this case, findings that mammograms – while life-saving – may not be quite as effective for all women as initially thought?
I think government does not have a role in helping patients decide what their care should be. I think that role should rest with the doctor. If government has done research that is relevant, they should put that research out there to doctors and the public. But it’s not government’s role to then, as this task force did, recommend changes in care. They are overstepping their role. And that’s why so many women are concerned.
To read the entire interview, please visit: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-20/fiorinas-cancer-warning/
November 20, 2009
In Case You Missed It: Carly’s Cancer Warning From The Daily Beast
By Dana Goldstein