Hey look, the New York Times is running two of the most depressing stories I’ve heard in months. And both are tangentially Jewish. Great. Who’s ready to get sad?
The first story is about how testing for breast cancer is prone to error–a piece of especially bad news for Ashkenazi Jewish women, who have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, so are constantly being told to get mammograms. If you have any experience with this–as, sadly, I do–you know that after the mammogram comes the biopsy, where some cells are extracted and you find out if you really have cancer (alas, after the biopsy there is no hotel lobby). Unfortunately, it turns out that reading the results of the biopsy can be very difficult, and in a shocking number of cases women are undergoing surgery and treatment when it later turns out they never had cancer at all. This is bad news for a lot of already freaked out Jewish women. Oy.
As it turns out, diagnosing the earliest stage of breast cancer can be surprisingly difficult, prone to both outright error and case-by-case disagreement over whether a cluster of cells is benign or malignant, according to an examination of breast cancer cases by The New York Times.
There is an increasing recognition of the problems, and the federal government is now financing a nationwide study of variations in breast pathology, based on concerns that 17 percent of D.C.I.S. cases identified by a commonly used needle biopsy may be misdiagnosed. Despite this, there are no mandated diagnostic standards or requirements that pathologists performing the work have any specialized expertise, meaning that the chances of getting an accurate diagnosis vary from hospital to hospital.
The second piece of bad news is that women were much larger players in the atrocities of the Holocaust than was previously known. Men definitely did the lion’s share of the evil work, but an American historian has uncovered evidence that implies that women were much more involved than anyone really thought.