Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Mindful (in) attention post 3 – on breast cancer

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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Reading Time: 2 minutes

OK, just a quick post on something that happened yday. I went over to my mom’s with my daughter just before an outing with family (my uncle’s bday) and I got my kid a small new play-doh set and we were playing together on the floor, while talking to my mom. Every now and then, I’d glance at my phone (I intentionally didn’t take my iPad with me coz I wanted to focus on my mom, but I had to check on my phone coz we were doing the #techquity twitter chat that night and I needed to promote it and also check if something was up). Of course my mom got upset that I glance at my phone like… 3 times for like… 2 seconds.

But that’s not the point. The point is that during my discussion with my mom she gave me a “breast cancer” scare. Told me that I have a family history of BC and should be concerned about certain medications I might consider taking. I was like, “what are you talking about?” and she said it was about my grandma on my mom’s side who got BC at the age of 70. I told her that my understanding was that only BC below age 40 or 45 was hereditary. Or some such thing.

Being as she is a physician and I am… ummm… not 🙂 She obviously thought she must be right and I must be wrong.

Now this is where the smartphone comes in handy. I got online and quickly found two useful links, including this one, which states:

“If only one person in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer over the age of 40, you’re likely to be at population risk.” (which means no increased risk)

All of this doesn’t really mean anything, I could die tomorrow or get any kind of cancer. But it does prove I am not crazy. There is some evidence behind the “age” at which a family member gets BC and the implication of heredity.

As I wrote this, I realized I’ve been wanting to ask an ob-gyn about something for a while (and did not want to ask my own uncle or close family friends) and I just realized I know one really well, online, and I could ask her. Except she’s out of town now. Oh well. Later.

 

But see – this is where online makes a huge difference and digital literacy helps. I found that link on my second try. The first try wasn’t so bad either. it was as BC risk calculator (apparently my risk is slightly elevated by o.04% because I had my baby after age 30; a fact my friend had told me before I got pregnant but was desperately trying and I was like, why are you telling me this?).

I am always reminded of something Rebecca said once: it does not matter what the statistics say, it only matters what is happening to each individual person. The stats might help doctors make rough decisions, but they don’t help the individual. All that matters is their own stats.

But my point is: without the quick access to this data, I’d have been worrying myself sick that I was doing something really bad for myself, and I was able to relieve that stress in something like 5 minutes without needing to call anyone and panic them with me. That’s pretty good indeed

One Comment

  1. Agree this is an example of what ‘digital literacy’ entails–an awareness of the universe of information and the ability to access it. Our world is enriched by being able to enhance our awareness this way. So your Mom, not meaning to scare you but warn you may, in her emotion and caring, not have been able to be neutral or distanced but the web can. I bet years ago your Mom trained you to seek resources and answers from wherever you can and judge their value with confidence.

    I have doctors who think they are sooooo right but I can’t imagine them raising such an interesting person as you;-)

    One of my specialties is being the world’s most irritating patient. I haven’t written the self-help manual yet but near the top would be subtle signs of disbelief in a medical conversation. Checking the phone is probably seen as quite provocative to someone from your Mom’s generation, so try something gentler like arching your right eyebrow while tilting your head just slightly. If she goes crazy then you have a sooooo right doctor to deal with. Say “Happy Birthday” and run away.

    Be prepared for this test to turn up strange outcomes. Mothers have their kid’s number and know tricks that can spoil the best tests.

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