You’ve Been Served…An Abnormal Mammogram Report

Four days after a routine mammogram, I received a form letter from Kaiser Permanente’s radiology department. The first sentence, I kid you not, was:

Your recent mammogram revealed an area that we believe is benign.

The automated letter (distinguished by the Oreo-cookie pattern of vertical lines just above my name and address) went on to say that “this type of finding is relatively common and occurs in up to 10 percent of mammograms.” I suppose they could have told me what the “finding” was and perhaps even on which breast and exactly where the “finding” had been seen (even UFO sightings are more specific), but that would negate the convenience of the form letter. Being a writer, I’m a stickler for detail, and resented them telling me that something (an area…a finding…an alien space ship?) was “relatively common” when by their own definition 90% of the mammograms they perform do not yield a result like mine.

The letter recommended I have a follow-up imaging evaluation in six months and told me in bold type that this (letter…test result…extra terrestrial?) shouldn’t be overly alarming since the “vast majority” of these exams ended up being normal.

I’m not panicked. Just a little pissed off at their bedside manner. After all, I believed their cool commercials and rebranding efforts. Seriously, the video imbedded here…awesome. Their multi-year Thrive marketing campaign led me to believe that health care could be, well, personal.

All this to say that form letter #Mammo-6-988 reminded me that I am just a number to Kaiser, and I refuse to be lulled to inaction by the soothing voice of Allison Janney in the Kaiser commercials saying, “may you live long and thrive” (a catch phrase sounding oddly similar to Star Trek’s Live Long and Prosper). As for the mammogram, I’ve already contacted my primary physician for more details, and I will decide how to proceed based on the information I get from her. But one thing is certain, I will never stop being the greatest advocate for my own health—clever Kaiser commercials and automated letters be damned.

4 Replies to “You’ve Been Served…An Abnormal Mammogram Report”

  1. Maritza

    Hi Michelle I got the same letter and the same recommendation. I know had been years since your post, but can you share what was your experience? Did you wait for the six months or you got other tests?

  2. janice

    I just read your article in 5280. I am not a writer, nor am I ever eloquent in speech, but I want you to know that I am continually astounded by the ignorance of people who are supposedly God’s mouthpiece. You are a child of God and God loves you more than anyone can fathom. Reading of your mother’s battle to accept your sexual orientaion, I felt nothing but sadness. As a heterosexual person, I can no more claim to be less sinful. My sins are just different… As for your son’s school… wow! wow! wow! As a teacher, I am thankful that your son will no longer be around people with such toxic views. Your son is lucky to have two loving parents. Period. That’s all that matters. Thank you for writing such a powerful article and for being brave enough to live your life honestly. I wish you every happiness.

  3. kpthrive

    Everyone was so freaked out about “death panels” due to health care reform, but not too many seem concerned that Kaiser Permanente already has them. If the majority of similar test results end up being benign, KP would rather not spend the money on further testing for everyone just to help the few individuals who might actually have cancer. The numbers just don’t add up.

    Why should they? If their form letter just happens to be wrong, causing the disease to spread while you’re waiting for the 6-month follow up, there won’t be anything you can do about it. It’s almost impossible to sue Kaiser for malpractice, and you won’t get your day in court anyway due to the mandatory binding arbitration requirement. If you’re really lucky and you can even find a lawyer to sue KP, your case might go before Benjamin Diaz, Kaiser’s favorite arbitrator, who had to resign his job as a real judge due to arrests for drunk driving and soliciting prostitution. He’s otherwise unemployable, but for some strange reason he always rules in Kaiser’s favor regardless of the evidence. I’m sure it’s not because they sign his paychecks or anything untoward like that.

    Sarcasm aside, I wish I could say I’m exaggerating, but unfortunately I’m not. I have been tracking Kaiser’s misdeeds for six years on my website linked to my name above.

    Good luck, you’re gonna need it!

  4. Kristy

    Here’s to being your own advocate (and overcoming all kinds of health and health-care obstacles). You’re amazing Michelle!

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