82: Thoughts on Preventative Health Care
Updated: Feb 23
Howdy! I'm not the most responsible in regards to my health. My diet is crap, largely made up of meat, cheese, and sweets. I do not have a primary care physician, and haven't since I was in high school (when I was a dependent). For reference, I'm 32. Partially, this is because I move a lot, most mostly it's because I don't see much point in getting a yearly physical. I already know if I've been putting on weight, and I got to CVS to check my blood pressure annually, when renewing my birth control, online. When I found lumps in my breasts in high school, I went straight to the doctor, and found out my fibroids were benign. When my acne was at its worst, I had my thyroid checked, and everything came back fine. When ill enough that a prescription is necessary, I go to urgent care.
The only doctor I see with any regularity is my dermatologist because I barely wore sunblock until my mid-late twenties. I'm naturally a very pale person and while I love my freckles, I also acknowledge the majority of them are a sign of sun damage. At least once a year I notice a new freckle, or one of my moles will shift in color, and it's off to the doctor for me.
My husband thinks I'm being ridiculous, that I'm too young for skin cancer (I'm not. Just amongst relatives, I can name two women who had cancer at my age, one of whom sadly passed away.), and that dermatologists are too eager to take our money. He has a very cynical impression of the healthcare system in the USA, and I don't blame him. The opioid epidemic didn't exactly spring up out of nowhere. We have an entire nation of drug addicts due to doctors over prescribing pain killers, because many were receiving kick backs. Before that we had doctors withholding the cure for syphilis from African American men, as part of an experiment those patients didn't consent to. Then there is the history of lobotomizations in the USA, and you get the idea. Yes, most doctors probably start off meaning well, many even stay that way, but I understand why anyone would view our for-profit healthcare system with suspicion.
Still I can't not go to a doctor when I find a new freckle, or my mole goes from brown, to pink, black, and white, all in the span of a few weeks. Skin cancer is probably the most survivable cancer, when caught early. We all die eventually, sure, but ideally, I'm not trying to die a highly preventable death. Imagine dying because I was too cheap to spend the money I absolutely had on getting a new mole biopsied. It's not like I don't have insurance. Does it cover my annual skin exams and inevitable biopsies? Barely, but I don't have the excuse of "no insurance." And at least one of my moles was found to have irregular cells.
Going for my annual skin exam feels like the very base line of responsibility with regard to my health. I don't get my eyes checked annually, and right now, I'm overdue for getting my wisdom teeth removed, but they don't hurt so I'm in no rush. It's not as though I'm throwing all our savings at this or that health clinic. Just, in this one area, I recognize the risk and am taking the necessary precautions.
I wish our politicians would stop catering to (profiting from) CEOs and actually prioritize the average working American. We need Universal Healthcare. They can call it whatever they want, but nobody should ever receive a bill for a necessary appointment, treatment, or medication. Not in what is supposedly the richest country on earth. It's appalling that our politicians can spend and spend and spend on wars, but debate every dollar that goes towards social programs at home. There are people all over who can't afford an annual skin exam, who will die of skin cancer. Who can't afford to see any doctors, who can't afford to take off work, even if they had the insurance. This country's health care system is a mess.
Anyway, the dermatologist's office called right before Christmas, informing me that this year's biopsy didn't go deep enough. In evidence, the two tiny freckles, that first appeared a few months ago, returned. So, this week I went back and had them finish what they started. It'll be about three weeks before I hear back, but the first chunk came back benign so hopefully the rest will too. Either way, if there is a problem, I will have caught it early.
Eventually, I do intend to get genetically tested to see if I have the gene that makes me more at risk for breast and cervical cancer. Aside from the history of breast cancer in my family, the DNA test I took a few years back determined that I'm partially of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Ashkenazi Jewish people are somewhat more likely than the general populace to carry the gene making them more prone to breast and cervical cancer. Should I have that gene, then that'll be another doctor I've got to see on the regular.
If you have reason to believe you're at a higher risk for a certain cancer, then it makes sense to see that doctor. Better to spend the money than die a preventable death. That said, I know it's not that simple a decision for folks in very tight financial situations. It's worth googling around to see if there are low income health clinics, or free exams near you. Specifically for dermatologists offices, some off free skin exam days as a means of community outreach.
Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!