Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Media and the Fear Factor

I'm watching Good Morning America. They're doing a segment on "Breast Exams: Do They Do More Harm Than Good?" -- one they've been promoting incessantly since the program began. Mighty ironic since GMA personality Robin Roberts' breast self-examination helped her identify and then fight her breast cancer.

But wait! There's more! The gist of the feature is that some -- repeat, some -- women may become obsessive about monthly breast self-exams and wind up subjecting themselves to more biopsies and their attendant pain and anxiety. Their resident medical expert's conclusion? If you self-examine every month, don't stop doing it; but if you don't, or if this is a stress-inducing exercise for you, try to relax and have a more "informal relationship with your breasts." (No jokes, please.)

It seems to me that fear, not reassurance, is the guiding principle in airing pseudo-news like this. Michael Moore is right; the media thrives by manufacturing and feeding fear. And to the extent that we let ourselves be made afraid by the media, we disempower ourselves.

I think I am going to e-mail GMA and tell them what I think about their feature. Feel free to join me.


ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Nice metaphor! I know that feeling. I'm also dealing with kids in the house, but mine are "returning." I know you are busy, busy, busy.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

I like GMA, but I also imagine that the producers, also the editors of women's magazines, sit around weekly saying, "Now, what kind of new twist can we give to a common health issue this week?" Ditto on exercise and decorating and especially on dieting. Then the next segment or page will be a lavish spread on fooooooood.

Regarding the breast exams: I once found a tiny lump, invisible on xray, that the doctor took out. Negative. I was glad he didn't pooh pooh it because that happened to a friend who insisted on removal and IT WAS CANCER. Has recurred for her twice.

However, I don't do the exams. I guess I just think one biopsy is enough. Dumb, right?

Trish said...

Early detection is the best protection. Yikes. My mom found her breast cancer when she fell off the porch and noticed one lump that wasn't going away. She and her friends had made it a point/bonding experience to go every year for a mammogram. When one didn't want to go, the others would gently talk them back into it. 'Round here, one of the news stations that is Channel 25 has "Buddy Check 25" where you remind a friend and she reminds you to check yaself out. I say, "Whatever works." Breast cancer sucks.