Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Pink Ribbons, But This

We come to the end of October, and to the end of the 23rd annual Breast Cancer Awareness month, which began in 1985 to promote early detection of the disease. Generally, the methods recommended are self-examination, yearly examination by a doctor, and at some point, a yearly mammogram screening.

As a cancer survivor, I am aware of cancer. If I put a stick of artificially sweetened gum in my mouth “cancer” flashes through my mind. When I get too busy and don’t exercise for a week, I can't help considering how that relates to my cancer statistics, so it’s no surprise that I wouldn’t make a decision to have a mammogram before investigating what additional cancer risk that action might add, and seeing if there are any other viable choices. So in the spirit of the month, I thought I’d share some of the links I found, and my own conclusion, in hopes that we can all be aware of our options.

While articles and websites in support of the mammogram tend to use words like “slight” and “very low” when describing the increase in risk due to radiation exposure from mammograms, not everyone treats the accumulated exposure from annual screenings, usually consisting of two to four films (2 views of each breast) per screening, so lightly. Various articles I’ve read that deal with the numbers in a fairly clear way are here and here. A site that is plainly opposed to what it sees as an exploitive amount of mammography use, and which brings up interesting questions regarding how helpful the practice really in terms of boosting survival rates, and possible conflicts of interest between the mammography industry and various cancer organizations, is here.

One question I had after reading articles like this and this, was “Why, if ultrasound is used after mammograms to determine the nature of a mass (whether it is fluid or solid), can’t it be used to screen for a mass in the first place?”

I made my own decision regarding breast cancer screening when I found an article in the American Journal of Surgery in 2004 entitled, “Ultrasound is now better than mammography for the detection of invasive breast cancer.” I had to access the article through my university’s Science Direct account, so I’ll quote the abstract here:

Objective: This study investigated the use of ultrasound (US) as a first-line diagnostic tool.

Methods: All women attending our breast center underwent bilateral whole-breast US in addition to all other investigations, and results were documented prospectively and preoperatively.

Results: Of 796 patients with breast cancer, US was positive in 710 (89%) and mammography in 706 (89%) (P = not significant). Either US or mammogram was positive in 770 (97%). Of 537 (67%) symptomatic patients, US was positive in 497 (93%) and mammography in 465 (87%). Either US or mammography was positive in 515 (96%). Of 259 (33%) screening patients, 220 (85%) had invasive cancer. US was positive in 195 (89%) and mammography in 203 (92%) (P = not significant). Either US or mammography was positive in 217 (99%). Of 39 screening patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (5% of all patients), US was positive in 18 (46%) and mammography in 38 (97%).

Conclusions: US is significantly better than mammography for detecting invasive breast cancer (92% patients). The combination of US and mammography is significantly better than either modality used alone, together resulting in 9% more breast cancers detected.
(The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 188, Issue 4, Pages 381-385
S. Benson, J. Blue, K. Judd, J. Harman)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What the World Needs Now, is

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

Monday, October 22, 2007

Will Anyone Be in New York in Jan/Feb?

Because the world is serendipitous, and because dancers can end up anywhere, I feel I should ask before I book my airline ticket.

I have a conference for school (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) from Jan 30-Feb 2. Will probably add a few days on one end to see my half-brother and new son, and to visit a friend in Phoenicia...if anyone else I know is around, I might stay to see you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leck-go my gecko!

We have lots of little lizards in Tallahassee. I think they are geckos but I am not sure. I like the word gecko though.

Yesterday, as I was leaving the village to go to work, I saw there was a gecko on the hood of my car, at the end as if he were the figure-head for a ship, or one of those hood ornaments that one doesn’t really see anymore. He stretched his head up, looking out at the world, the wind ruffling his little amphibian skin. He seemed to be enjoying the adventure.

But I was worried for the small gecko. What if he got to the parking lot at work and disembarked, and couldn't find his way back to his family? Or more worrisome, what if on the way to work, the running engine heated the car hood sufficiently to fry the gecko? Or what if the gecko realized he was overheating and in a panic, jumped from the hood into oncoming traffic?

Instead of exiting the village, I turned right, went around the block and stopped the car in front of our house. When I tried scoop the gecko off the hood, he freaked out and jumped of his own accord, into familiar territory. When I came home that night, I thought of the gecko. But of course he was long gone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How Can WORD Have No Autosave?

Today at work, I started formatting a 43 page document. At page 25 I opened "help" and it came up as a sidebar on the right. Once I figured out that "help" was not going to help, I closed...and in doing so accidentally closed the entire document without saving. Needless to say, I was not pleased with myself.

But as Paul likes to point out, I rarely stay mad at myself for long if I can find someone else to blame...so I'll just mention that I sometimes use another program for screen-writing. You can set it to auto save every 5,10,20 or 30 minutes. Somehow this company has figured out that few people work on something for three hours and then decide they liked it better before they ever started ...what up Microsoft?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One of the Drawbacks of a Healthy Lifestyle

is that when you come home tired and a little depressed (or who knows, maybe just depressingly tired) and you want to eat something bad for you...there's not much selection.

The food item in my apartment with the most sugar (aside from the container of sugar now solid with humidity) is Kellogg's Smart Start cereal with antioxidants (14g per serving).

The food items with the most fat? Frozen organic hash-browns, some cheese (also frozen because I eat it so rarely) and an avocado. The hash-browns are two years old--I remember moving them from our other apartment. Tonight when I dumped them into the frying pan they were encased in freezer burn so thick I couldn't see the potatoes, but I cooked them up with a quarter cup of olive oil and half a cup of cheese. I chopped up the avocado and threw it on top along with some Tabasco. Not as bad as you might think.

But sometimes it seems not fair to be so squeaky clean and still be wrestling with that cold from a month ago.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Just Another Manic Monday

Our internet is down.

I awoke this morning with a plan for what to wear to work--the plan included sewing a hole, but alas the fabric had frayed so I went for the iron on interface, but there was too little fabric to fold, and the interface melted to the iron, and so I found an iron on patch, but it was marroon and the fabric was off-white and shear, so in the end I had no plan, I had no time, I had no lunch packed the night before.

I left the house without my phone, without my watch, without having done my homework for class. I finished it at work, but forgot to print the requisite two copies, so I need to email my classmates, but now it is on the computer at work, on the list for tomorrow...this is how manic Mondays can transition to turbulent Tuesdays.

I am in desparate need of two-cent stamps, of spray-starch, of more file-folders and closet space and a clairavoyant house-keeper.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My Days of Guilt-Free Shopping Seem to Be Over

Despite the fact that I had every intention of seeing The Corporation when it came to theaters in 2003, I only got around to it last month. It’s the kind of film that (once again) makes one consider the costs of our consumerism, both environmental and human.

Although I am not much of an activist, I can console myself that as a grad student, I tend to be fairly conservative in my consumption...morality enforced by poverty.

But now I have this new job, a little more corporate…and I really want some new pants to wear to work. I’ve gained a few pounds somewhere along the line, and I long to wake up in the morning and have a few options I don’t feel I’m bulging out of.

Formerly, it was challenging enough just to find clothes that I liked that fit, but now I also don’t want to support sweatshops. American Apparel is a brand that comes to mind, but it's hardly business-wear, nor is the company ethically perfect--as suggested here, the situation is complex. So what to do? With limited time, money and choices within this local, perhaps it's back to the GAP company--maybe Banana republic, as that article and this one, imply that the GAP company has been coerced into trying to standardize their working conditions, and that watchdog groups are active in pressuring them to be vigilant--to what extent they can. So that's my plan. And they need to fit.