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ID cards foster patient, survivor privacy

Courtesy of Hope Boutique

Breast cancer patients and survivors will now be able to pass through airport security with more privacy because of new breast cancer prosthesis identification cards.

The prostheses that some breast cancer survivors wear are detected by airport Transportation Security Administration body scanners when previously-used metal detectors did not.

The cards are similar to those ID cards used for pacemakers and other prosthesis, but are meant specifically for breast cancer prosthesis and to provide a discreet explanation to the security officials.

Electra Paskett, associate director for population sciences at OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, and a breast cancer survivor, said her experiences with the TSA body scanners left her outraged.

“When going through airport security I was pulled aside and asked if security could pat my chest down. I explained to them that I was wearing prosthesis. They told me they would still have to pat me down. I asked that they do it in private. They did, and then completed their check for explosives. The procedure was very uncomfortable. I thought that they should be able to tell the difference between what is dangerous and what is not,” Paskett said.

Paskett was also concerned for others who go through the same situation.

“I thought that the whole process was very rude. People around you know what’s going on,” Paskett said. “It can be hard for women who are sensitive about explaining their situation in a public place and to strangers.”

Paskett collaborated with Vera Garofalo, the manager of the Hope Boutique in the OSUCCC-James. Together they came up with the idea for the prosthesis ID card.

Garofalo said the purpose of the ID card is to help clients go through TSA scanning.

“It is meant to identify their prosthesis, so the patients don’t have to explain they just hand security the card,” Garofalo said.

The cards hold the patient’s identification, provider’s information and how many prostheses a patient is wearing. The card is the size of a driver’s license, laminated and free of charge.

Garofalo said they have received positive feedback from the patients who have used the ID cards.

“Many of the women who have used them are frequent travelers and have expressed a deep appreciation. They can avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of explaining their situation. In some cases women did not know why they were being pulled aside from airport security, they did not know that the reason they were having body searches and pat downs was because they had prosthesis that set off the scanners,” Garofalo said.

Paskett said she thinks the cards have been well received by TSA, but that the cards are not meant to get anyone out of being scanned. Paskett said that she is OK with being scanned, but wanted more privacy.

“I just wanted discretion and respect,” Paskett said. “I don’t want people assuming I’m a terrorist right off the bat.”

OSUCCC-James patients can request the card at the Hope Boutique, where the boutique can look up their basic information, their purchase date and get the providers’ and physicians’ signature needed to validate the card.

Garofalo said that the boutique has also been getting calls from non-OSU patients.

“We’ve had calls from all over the country from people who have seen them,” Garofalo said. “We are able to send them a blank card so they can get it filled out and validated. We have had calls from all the way in Miami, Fla., and many other locations.”

Garofalo said the boutique has not been tracking the distribution of the cards, but said that they will start doing so.

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