day 72 how I helped my mom get a mammogram

As they grow up, children are supposed to be helpful to their parents, and in particular sons to their mothers. I have tried to be as helpful as I can, at a distance, to my mom who lives in Germany. Although it is not for me to judge, I hope that occasionally I succeed. For example, togehter with my brother, I recently helped Mom get on Facebook and organize her photos on her computer. But just recently I was able to help her in a way that I would never have anticipated.

Germany has a blended health care system with governmental and private insurance, broadly speaking. Mammograms are covered, but it turns out for the general population only at a certain age. Interestingly it is not just that you have to pass an age threshold at which breast cancer becomes more common, say 50, making the screening useful and offsetting the risk of over diagnosis and even exposure to scans. It is also that after a certain age you become ineligible for state insurance coverage for a mammogram, presumably because the impact is lower in terms of years of life saved. Yes, these are hard economic cost-benefit calculations, made at the level of a country and not considerate of the individual. 

My mother had had a breast cancer scare when I was in elementary school, which I remember very well as a conversation while we were taking a walk behind our school where she picked us up. It must have been a suspicious imaging finding that turned out thankfully to be nothing. She has had regular mammograms since, of course, with no findings. Now she has crossed the age barrier on the other side and when she went for a regular check up with her primary care physician he alerted her to the fact that she would not be covered for the next mammogram. She could of course always pay for it out of pocket. 

Well, apparently the conversation between Mom and her doctor turned to how her sons were doing, and she mentioned my recent diagnosis of breast cancer. Well, I am sure you can guess where this is going. A first degree relative with a diagnosis of breast cancer is enough to make you eligible for insurance coverage for a mammogram, regardless of your age. And that is how I helped my mom get an insurance-covered mammogram. When Mom told me I couldn’t help but grin for the next several hours 🙂

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