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Stupid Reasons People Die

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Stupid Reasons People Die
I want to recommend a book by John Corso, M.D., full title, Stupid Reasons People Die, An Ingenious Plot For Defusing Deadly Diseases.

Throughout the book, Corso cuts through common assumptions about health care and at the end, has a chapter on exactly what tests he thinks people need, and when and why, to avoid dying stupidly (i.e. when death could have been prevented but for a simple test).

Now, I'm not for hypochondria-based medicine (my recent experience with anesthesia has convinced me the way to stay healthy is to do whatever you can to avoid ever needing medical intervention) but Corso seems to take the prudent but necessary side of preventive care.

I haven't read the entire book, just read a bunch of it and skimmed a bunch more, but I did find one area where he fell down, which is in advising women to "know thy own breasts" -- in other words, through self-examination. Now, mine happen to be on the larger side, and I sometimes joke with the mammographer that there could be a bomb implanted in there and I wouldn't find it through self-examination. But, I think even women with smaller breasts feel a lot of lumps all the time or don't know what they really feel and don't have a good grasp on what's dangerous and what's not. A book I recently got in the mail that echoes that notion is Dr. Nieca Goldberg's Complete Guide to Women's Health. Goldberg writes:

If this book had been written ten years ago, it would say that the standard of care for examining your breasts would be a monthly self-examination. This has fallen out of favor because of a long-term recent study of women working in a Shanghai factory. Half the women were given instruction on self-examination of the breast; the other half received no instruction. After ten years, the researchers found that there was no reduction in the death rate from breast cancer in the women who performed self-examination. Therefore many concluded that self-examination is a waste of time.

I'm not a doctor, haven't read this study or any others, and maybe it's "better safe than sorry" -- but I think the real message here (and a message Corso does make as well at the end of his book) is to get regular mammograms and maybe ultrasound and/or MRI if you're a younger woman with large, dense breasts and a history of breast cancer in your family. Ashkenazi Jews with a history of breast cancer in the family might want to see if they can get the BRCA test.