Notes on the health system — 2

This is my second posting in a row with some observations on the French health care system. This time, my topic is a national program designed to screen for a type of cancer that can often be defeated if it’s caught early. To my mind, it’s a good example of government being proactive in detection, going well beyond public education.

In our département, the Dordogne, the program is known as Dépistage du cancer colorectal en Dordogne. (Dépistage is French for “screening,” and the rest is self-explanatory.)

Not long after I received my carte Vitale (the health insurance card I described in yesterday’s posting), I received a personal letter, as well as an educational brochure, from the group in charge of the screening program. It advised that after the age of 50, people should be screened regularly for the presence of blood in their bowels, because that can indicate the presence of bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer).

But the letter went beyond information alone. At the bottom of the letter were a number of adhesive labels, printed with my name, my department’s number (Dordogne is No. 24), my birth date — and a bar code to identify me precisely. Here’s how the program works:

1. See the doctor. A few days after receiving the letter, I took it to my doctor, who immediately gave me a kit that’s used for self-testing (in the privacy of your bathroom), to determine if blood is present in the large intestine.

2. Administer the test. Actually doing the self-testing isn’t the most pleasant task, but it’s pretty easy. It involves putting a very small smear from a stool sample onto a piece of cardboard that can be sealed, and doing this once per day for three days.

3. Mail it back. Once the three days are past, you just seal up the testing kit, and identify it with the bar code that was sent with the original letter. Then you mail it to the lab that does the work. All of this is free.

4. The results. Eventually I’ll receive a letter with the results. If all is well, nothing more needs to be done until it’s time for the next screening. If some blood is present, the recommended next procedure would be a coloscopie (colonoscopy).

When I lived in Toronto, my doctor was quite proactive about this kind of testing, so it could be argued that a national program isn’t really needed. But I suspect that many harried doctors (or their reluctant patients) would ignore this kind of screening  and focus on more urgent examinations or treatments.

So, on balance, I’m happy that the French health system has invested in a program to catch problems before they get much, much worse.

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10 Responses to Notes on the health system — 2

  1. aschlar says:

    I must admit that i enjoy your food entries better. LoL.

  2. loren24250 says:

    Ha! Fair point, Allan. I’ll get back to food — and flora and fauna — soon!

  3. Keithster says:

    Agreed with aschlar. I did the same test as part of the series of medical events that occur for your 50th. Not pleasant but painless. And a good source of bathroom humour twixt me and the missus.
    I read somewhere that the French have a huge passion for ear picking. Maybe you could address that in a future entry.

  4. loren24250 says:

    Keithster, I’m happy to comply. But first please confirm your understanding — did you mean the French like to pick their own ears? Or the ears of other people? Once I have your direction, I will investigate further!

  5. D2 says:

    In Ontario they send a similar kit as a “congratulations you’ve just turned 50 birthday card”. Of course at D2 we know the value of this process and catching things early. I think the ad campaign slogan they used to run here was “Don’t die of embarrassment ” do the test!

    Well the blogging circle may now be close to complete, as we dedicated readers have learned where food comes from, how it’s carefully and lovingly prepared, how it’s plated and presented, how it’s consumed and now…. where it all ends up.

  6. loren24250 says:

    D2 — surely we can enlarge that circle! At least, I will keep trying. If we ever get sun here in Rain-a-Rama-Land, I’m thinking of a close look at the explosion of yellow flowers. And then it’s back to food. Tomorrow (May 1) is an official holiday (Labour Day) and Season-Opener Day (Daglan’s tea room opens). Stay tuned!

  7. Double D says:

    Excellent and looking forward to reading more on the only Blog we bother with. Perhaps a piece on where Loren24250 came from? We often argue over dinner that Loren1 through Loren24249 were probably taken or possibly there is another explanation?

  8. Lesley says:

    I think ‘foreigners’ will be amazed that in France one’s postal address can be done in four lines – and that includes a line for your name and one for France.
    BTW we older girls get a free mammogram every three years as well. In the custom of handshaking, it feels rather odd to say Good Day, shake hands with a Dr wearing only one’s lower garments!

  9. loren24250 says:

    Lesley, you’re right about the address. Although for domestic mail, you need only three lines, since the “France” is understood. Which brings me to Loren24250:

    Double D, think of my name as the “Beverley Hills 90210” of France. In other words, it’s my name followed by my postal code. The first two digits always tell you the département — in our case, it’s “24” for Dordoge. The rest is the detail. So — voila!

  10. loren24250 says:

    Correction to last entry: By “Dordoge” I meant “Dordogne.” The mistake comes from reading too many Brunetti novels set in Venice, where the Doges ruled…

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