Full Body Scanners and Prostheses
I have written about this before, but have just seen this commentary from the Komen Foundation. Some weeks have elapsed since the full body scanners began to be commonly used in many US airports, so we (as a community) have now had a fair amount of experience. Bottom line is that, yes, the scanners do pick up breast prostheses, chemotherapy ports, and, sometimes, surgical clips. There are a few strategies:
1. Ask for a pat down rather than going through the scanner. Some women find this even more intrusive and unpleasant. Your call.
2. Tell someone before going through the scanner that you have a prosthesis or port and that is likely to show. I have done this, and, frankly, it made no difference. The prosthesis still showed, and I still got a pat down.
3. If you have a prosthesis, consider removing it before going through the scanner. Depending on your mood, you can either flip it brazenly out and put it in the box with your shoes or take it out in a ladies' room and put it in your purse. Obviously this won't work with a port.
Here is the information from Komen. I am really curious about your experiences; please leave a comment.
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If you're a breast cancer survivor traveling by air this week…
…you may be concerned about what to expect from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening guidelines at U.S. airports beginning this week.
TSA is now using full-body scanners at 68 U.S. airports that can detect surgical clips, prostheses and implants. If these devices are detected, breast cancer survivors may be subjected to a more thorough and personal secondary screening by TSA agents.
The secondary screening has been controversial: One breast cancer survivor says she was told to remove her prosthesis; another told us that she was in pain for days from pressure to her chemo port, and others say they felt invaded and distressed.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has written to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to offer Komen for the Cure's expertise into the special issues around the nation's 2.5 million breast cancer survivors. We're not national security experts, of course. But we can do our part to ensure that survivors are
treated with respect and dignity.
As we do so, here are some steps you can take as you head to the airport this holiday season:
• Komen is recommending that breast cancer survivors arrive earlier than usual at the airport, with ample time to go through the new secondary screening if necessary
• If you are concerned about going through the body scanner for any reason, you may request a private patdown screening
• If you choose, or are selected for, a pat-down screening, you may request a private screening away from public areas
• You should advise the TSA agents of any chemotherapy ports or other medical devices.
• You should not be asked to remove your prosthetic device
• Most airlines strongly recommend that customers use carry-ons, rather than checked luggage, to carry medicines or prosthetic devices
Here is more information from TSA's website that may be helpful as you plan your travel:
We don't at this point have reliable data on the potential impact of these new screening procedures on breast cancer survivors. We want to hear from our survivors about their experience at the airport - good or bad. Please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Please know that we are watching this situation as it develops, and are more than happy to work with TSA to ensure that the issues of breast cancer survivors are heard.