Breast Cancer Survivor Creates Prosthesis ID Card for Travelers

By Carlton Purvis

A breast cancer survivor this month launched a new breast cancer survivor ID card that she hopes will help survivors using prostheses to travel through airport security with more discretion. The card, developed at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC), provides a discrete way for people to inform Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents about their prostheses.

Breast cancer survivor Electra Paskett, associate director for Population Sciences at OSUCCC, came up with the idea after enduring “several inconsistent and insensitive airport security checks.” After TSA began using body scanners, Paskett said she was pulled aside for pat-downs--not every time, but enough that she felt like her privacy and dignity were violated.

“Frankly, it made me angry. As breast cancer survivors, we have fought our own battles, we get a tremendous outpouring of support, and we want to cooperate with security guidelines. We are simply asking to be treated with some compassion,” Paskett said in a statement.

Paskett consulted with TSA when designing the card, but TSA didn’t work directly with the university on its development.

The laminated, drivers’ license-sized card displays information including a patient's name and address, the name of the provider of the prosthetic, and when the device was purchased. The cards are carried at Hope’s Boutique in the JamesCare Comprehensive Breast Center, a specialty store for cancer survivors located in Columbus, Ohio, but they are available internationally. Paskett said they’ve had orders from as far as Miami and Canada. Hope’s Boutique provides the cards for free.

“TSA works with numerous groups, including breast cancer organizations, to continuously refine and enhance our procedures to improve the passenger experience while also ensuring the safety of the traveling public,” a TSA official said.

In TSA’s existing program for screening people traveling with medical equipment, travelers aren’t required to remove prosthetic devices, casts, or support braces, but officers do have to see and touch the device.

“TSA understands that passengers who are breast cancer survivors may have concerns about the screening process. When a breast cancer survivor, including survivors who have prostheses, approaches an airport checkpoint, that individual has the option of undergoing screening by use of advanced imaging technology or a pat-down,” said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.


Cards, cards everywhere...

While this "info-card" of sorts is a good idea to some extent, it's hardly likely that it will make much of a difference in the long run. 

The main problem that we've seen with the TSA, and other security organizations handling airport security in other countries is the lack of training that the TSA has become somewhat famous for, and that other, private security companies (such as G4S and Securitas TAS) skimp on in order to save money and secure their overhead. 

Another important point here is that the myriad of such cards will, in the long run, only confuse both passengers and the poor security officers who man the checkpoints. Handing a security officer a card to read in the middle of a rush hour will most likely slow everything down and get everyone even crankier than they were before - that goes especially for the passengers awaiting their turn to either step through a scanner or go through a "pat-down". Instead, training security officers to recognize such "devices" and see that they are no threat will be a better idea. This will not, of course, guarantee that pasients with such "devices" will float past security every time, but that's hardly the point, either. It will, however, ensure that they are treated the same as every other passenger, and not be singled out specifically because of their condition. 


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