Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mammograms, Calcium & Hormones (Oh, My!) (by res ipsa)

How do you deal with the constantly-changing, often-conflicting recommendations regarding women's health care? Obviously, you talk it over with your doctor and choose a path that he or she recommends and that you can live with. But how do you process every release of new data? Since I was old enough to pay attention to my own health, I've lost count of the flips, flops, and back flips on the subject of, say, the benefits vs. risks of birth control pills and/or hormone therapy for women with a family history of breast cancer; recommendations for which women should get mammograms and at what age they should start; and guidelines for taking calcium, Vitamin D, and/or iron. The shifting data and recommendations provoke anxiety in me, so I have to admit that defer entirely to my GYN for two reasons. First, I've been seeing her since I was a teenager and after all these years she's like a second mother to me. I feel like she knows me and my medical history very well and I feel that she's very cautious and methodical when it comes to my care. Second, due to an especially nasty family history involving both breast and uterine cancer and a tendency to spin out worst case scenarios at the observation of, say, a hangnail, I do a lousy job of managing the aforementioned anxiety, so in essence, I am letting my GYN manage it for me.

I am fortunate to have such a trusted adviser, but I realize that not everyone is as lucky as I am in that respect (and that someday, my GYN will retire), and so I am wondering, how do you do it?