Monday, June 21, 2010

Will new airport body scanners increase hassles for breast cancer survivors?

Change is not always necessarily good.

Earlier this month, a New York Times article offered up a few first impressions on the new full body-screening devices coming soon to an airport near you.

Currently, reporter Joe Sharkey writes, the Transportation Security Administration "has 105 of them at 31 airports, and is awarding contracts to have about 450 installed at various airports by the end of this year. Eventually, these machines [technically, "millimeter wave scanning machines"] will replace the familiar magnetometers that you walk through at checkpoints."

The article drew a "robust reader response."

Sharkey shares some of it in a follow-up column today. While most of the feedback concerns the lousy (and even hostile in some cases) attitude of the TSA screeners, one specific reader experience is worth sharing here with you as an fyi:

[T]he body scanners, which detect mass rather than just metal, have introduced complications for some women who are breast cancer survivors. One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said a female screener had asked her to step aside after a body scan. “She asked if I had had any surgery to my chest area, and I responded that I had had a mastectomy and that I wore a silicone breast prosthesis. She thanked me, said, ‘Affirmative’ into the headset.”

Asked about the readers’ comments, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, Greg Soule, said passengers with medical devices outside the body, like a breast prosthesis or a colostomy bag, “will be offered a private screening.”

Brave new world, here we come...

If you've had any experience with these new scanners or wish to share your thoughts on this, please leave a comment.

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