Wednesday, December 22, 2010


My mammogram results came yesterday; they were normal, but the radiologist had affixed a sticker (pink, natch) to the latter saying that I'm a candidate for Sonocine. This is a whole-breast ultrasound, recommended for women with dense breast tissue, that supposedly catches small cancers that don't show up on a regular mammogram. At the radiology place where I got the mammogram, there were Sonocine posters all over the place: they're pushing this thing like it's the latest perfume. So part of me is ready to dismiss the girly pink sticker as pure medical marketing (especially since Sonocine is, I believe, headquartered here in Reno).

On the other hand, my mother's breast cancer only showed up on mammo when it had already spread to a bunch of lymph nodes, and although her outcome was excellent, the entire saga would have been much easier on everybody if they'd caught it before that. So I called the number on the girly pink sticker to ask some questions. Is this procedure covered by my insurance? No, and it costs $296.

A kind and very patient receptionist listened to my skepticism and assured me that no, the radiology place isn't sticking pink Sonocine stickers on every report that goes out, that only women with especially dense breast tissue are candidates for this procedure. (You always knew I was dense!) "But you can wait," she told me. "You don't have to do it now. Maybe it will be covered by your insurance in a few years."

The way the state budget's going, I'll be lucky if I have insurance in a few years. So I said, "I think I'm going to call my gynecologist and ask her opinion."

"Absolutely," said the kind, patient receptionist. "That's exactly what I'd do."

My gynecologist is out of the office today, but her receptionist -- who'd clearly never heard of this thing, and sounded baffled -- took a message and said she'll call me tomorrow morning. If my doc thinks it's a good idea, I'll certainly do it. I've had plenty of medical procedures that cost more money than that just for the twenty percent copay (the back MRI, most recently). In the meantime, I think I'm just rebelling against the fear-of-breast-cancer-as-big-business model that's clearly at work here, despite whatever real benefits this procedure offers.

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