All Topics → Forum: Living Without Reconstruction After a Mastectomy → Topic: Full body scanners and foobs
Posted on: Aug 21, 2010 12:50PM
I have some concerns about privacy with the full body scanners. I imagine that foobs will show up, and I'm not so sure the TSA will know what they are. Will I be pulled aside and patted down? If so, how private will it be? If it's private, I would be willing to "flash" by foob, but how do I then explain to my traveling companions who have no idea about my breast cancer (and no need to know), why I was pulled aside? Should I just opt out of the scanner and go for the pat down from the get go? Has anyone had any experience with these new scanners?Log in to post a reply
Posts 61 - 90 (165 total)
Nov 17, 2010 01:30PM - edited Aug 20, 2013 06:12AM by Alyson
I did tell the story of our trip earlier this year. Will repeat it briefly for those here and worrying about the scans. My DH had 'enhanced patdowns' all the way through the States, he is unable to go through any scanner because of a pacemaker. He found them more frustrating than anything because in the US they say what they are going to do all the time - in Europe and here in NZ they get on with it and are very quick and not intrusive.
For me I was to have an enhanced patdown after going through a new scanner, which beeped well that until the woman doing it realised I had a prothesis and became very embarassed. She started around my head - goodness knows what I would have in my hair , down my shoulders, over my chest and her finger slipped down the side of my bra. I just said - yes I have a prothesis. She quickly turned me around patted my back and legs and almost pushed me on my way. The whole thing was more amusing than concerning. I would go through the scanners so what.The one I did get annoyed at was at LA when they wanted to test my lymphoedema sleeve for explosives!!!
Most place now you have to take off your shoes and extra layers of clothing which get xrayed along with your hand luggage.
So Kerry don't worry, enjoy your holiday it sounds fun.
Nov 17, 2010 03:48PM ktym wrote:
Experiences like mine last month don't count. The issue getting the media blitz is regarding newly put in place regulations and the new pat down procedures. The old pat down is gone. In place is hands up the skirt and under the shirt. Cindy I think you have a very good idea. If I ever fly again, which I sure am hoping to avoid, I'll give you the info
Nov 17, 2010 06:08PM BarbaraA wrote:Hey, I called my rad onc and asked if I could get a letter excusing me from the radiation scanner. Tampa has the wave scanner, that's fine with me. Let those young pups stare at my 59 YO sagging boob and butt, no problem. I just don't want ANY more radiation. He said he would but they probably would not give a cr@p and would still end up being groped. I will let y'all know how it goes on my trip on 12/1.
Nov 17, 2010 09:11PM grneyd5600 wrote:
Hi Ladies, so my flight out on Tues night wasn't as pat on the TSA experience as the one was two weeks ago. When I was ready to go into the screening I told them to expect to see something as I had expanders from BC. The machine did show something so they asked me to stand still while they ran the wand around my body. When it picked up the metal of the fill port the TSA agent (who was a female) asked if that was the area the ports were. When I confirmed she asked me "can I feel that area - I will do it through your clothes?" I told her yes and all she did was run her finger along the area above my boobs and below my collar bone. She waived me on from there. So maybe the fact that I acknowledged it upfront helped. We will see how I make out on Saturday going home from Newark. here's hoping!
Nov 18, 2010 06:26AM lewing wrote:
Some of these stories are truly horrific - Jackie, I'm glad your latest experience wasn't.
My own experiences have been more like Jackie's. I've had to fly a lot in the last month and a half; during that period, my home airport (DTW) installed its first full-body scanner. The first time I saw it, having read this thread and knowing some of the issues, I was NOT happy. Fortunately, this was a late evening flight and the airport was deserted (absolutely no one else in the security line - how often does THAT happen?). I nervously approached the TSA guy who was directing the line (or would have been directing the line if there was a line to direct), and started to explain that I was a breast cancer patient. His first reaction was to assume I was talking about the radiation exposure - he cut me off (annoying!) and assured me it was perfectly safe (even more annnoying - how does he know how much other radiation I've been exposed to? does he monitor the machine to know it's working properly?).
I went on to explain that I wore a prosthetic breast and was concerned it would trigger a further screening. He and I basically chatted for a minute (I think I offered to save time by going directly to a private search), and then . . . he told me I was OK and could just go through the regular metal detector. And that was that.
On my next flight, in the restless spirit of scientific inquiry, I decided not to say anything and just see what happened. This time, I was directed to go through the scanner (not everyone was - there's only one, and they seem to screen randomly). My foob obviously showed up, because a female agent pulled me aside and told me she needed to pat me down. I was offered the opportunity to have this done in private, but declined. The patdown was nothing. She very lightly stroked the edges of my bra (through my clothes). I don't believe she touched my actual breast (or my foob) at all; if she did, it was very lightly and unobtrusively. Then she asked me to hold out my hands, and proceeded to swab them with some sort of special paper that was then analyzed for explosive residue. That took a few seconds, and then I was on my way.
I think it's good to share experiences here . . . I certainly hope my experience turns out to be more typical.
Nov 18, 2010 10:51AM crazy4carrots wrote:
Just wondering -- which is better to wear when going through the scanning process - microbead-filled or silicone-filled, or does it matter?
Nov 18, 2010 11:08AM KerryMac wrote:
I've been wondering that too, I have an old one that I first wore after surgery, I got it free from the Cancer Society, it isn't silicone but just padding I think.....would that make a difference on the scanning machines, or do they just pick up on the fact that something is in there that isn't a real boob??
Nov 18, 2010 11:48AM otter wrote:
lewing: "... in the restless spirit of scientific inquiry...". LOL!
Seriously, I think it would be worth doing some experiments with our foobs and sharing the results here. As I said, I don't plan to do any flying any time soon. But, for those of you who are still traveling in commercial planes, how about wearing different foobs (or no foob at all) on different trips, to see what happens; and then telling us about the experience?
It won't be a real experiment, because, as the TSA keeps telling us, the screenings will be inconsistent and unpredictable. Sometimes people may be ushered through the metal detector and nothing more will happen; other times everyone will be sent to the "nude-o-scope" (as one frequent flyers' discussion board calls it) for primary screening (you can still "opt out"); still other times, there will be a "selection" process in which unknown factors determine who goes where.
And, as some of you have pointed out, the invasiveness of the pat-downs may differ, depending on the airport, the checkpoint, the mood or spitefulness of the TSA agent, and whether they are doing a whole-body pat-down or just looking for something in particular.
lewing, your most recent experience is especially interesting. "He and I basically chatted for a minute..., and then . . . he told me I was OK and could just go through the regular metal detector. And that was that." IIRC, isn't that a short version of what they do in Israel? There is lots of eye contact with the passengers, and plenty of "chatting", with questions about the reason for the trip, the destination, the length of travel, etc. The purpose is to try to detect nervousness, or evasiveness, or whatever it is that someone might display if he/she is planning to do harm to the aircraft or its passengers. I would much rather be chatted-up than patted-down, if given a choice.
Anyway, I wish the TSA would admit that there are alternatives to their weapon-confiscation approach. As some critics have pointed out, wouldn't it be better to try to identify the terrorists themselves, instead of investing millions of dollars in techniques that work great at detecting plastic hair clips and sanitary napkins?
BTW, one of the most eggregious parts of the new, enhanced screening program was its application to children. It's off-topic here, but relevant to those of us who have kids and grand-kids. There have been a couple of on-line testamonials and video accounts this past week of young children looking terrified or screaming bloody murder as TSA agents rubbed their hands over the kids' bodies and up their legs. Parents were infuriated by the thought of that happening to their children, who had been taught not to allow strangers to touch them. Sooooo... the TSA decided it will not do "enhanced" pat-downs on children under the age of 12. I don't know exactly what that means, but if I had a young child, I'd be looking for more information about it.
This is an interesting discussion. I'm wondering where it will all lead...
Nov 18, 2010 01:02PM Celtic_Spirit wrote:
I read an article on either CNN or MSNBC this morning about sexual assault victims' reactions to scanning and esp. pat downs. It has caused panic attacks, etc., for many. I've known several women who were raped or molested, and they didn't even like to be touched or hugged by people they knew, let alone groped by strangers. Surely, there has to be a better way. I would rather us use Israel's methods and be less politically correct than traumatize people who have committed no crimes and have already been traumatized enough.
Nov 19, 2010 10:37AM Sher wrote:
Unreal! I have thought about scanners, pat downs and breast forms, but never once considered menstrual items. What in the world do they do with seniors and incontinence products? Also strangers patting down children...............disgusting.
If I can't get there by car, I'm not going!
Nov 19, 2010 11:53AM Erica wrote:
I'd like to report my first experience with the full body scanners at Logan Airport in Boston -- or rather, with opting out of them. I knew they were at Logan, but previously they've let travelers choose between the new scanner and the old-style one, so I always chose the older one and didn't have a problem when wearing my breast forms. Last week, it was clear that I wouldn't have a choice, so when my turn came up, I told the TSA person, "I wear prosthetics so you're going to want to pat me down anyway, so I want to skip the scanner and just let you pat me down." The person told me that if I was scanned, they'd only have to pat down the chest, since the forms would show up black on the screen. I said I'd rather just have the full pat-down and no scanner. I know they say radiation is minimal, but remember when microwave ovens first came out? They said no radiation would leak from the ovens, but the original ones leaked like crazy. New technology is always a work in progress. Having already had breast radiation, I will do everything I can to avoid more.
So, they got a woman TSA agent to come over. As others have mentioned, the pat-down was quite invasive, in that she really went up and down my body, including inner thighs and (briefly) crotch. When she came to the breast area, she ran her hands along the bottom of my breast forms (not the back of her hand, but her palm and fingers). "They feel real, don't they?" I said, in a lame attempt at humor. She looked momentarily surprised but didn't smile, didn't say anything. Then she had me wait, while they tested for explosive residue I guess, and then I was done.
Not pleasant, but not horrible. I'm not very modest about this stuff, so it wasn't too bad for me, but certainly time consuming, so you need to leave a little extra time for it. My big fear was that they'd feel the breast form and make me go into a private place and take it off, so they could examine it. That would be creepy. Fortunately, it didn't happen, at least not this time.
I was delighted that on my return flight from San Francisco yesterday, they still had the old machines in place, so I didn't have to go through that again on this trip.
Nov 19, 2010 02:38PM MusaMayer wrote:
Two weeks ago, at Dulles airport, I had my first experience with the new body scanner: I hadn't given this any thought at all, and didn't even register that why it was that the alarm went off and I was drawn to one side, a few steps away from the security line. There I was given one of the new "enhanced" pat downs, with lots of attention paid to my breasts--I felt extremely exposed, and people were staring at me curiously. I finally figured out what was going on, and asked if this was because of my breast prosthesis. They then called a supervisor, who took at least 15 minutes to arrive--and I was taken to a private room, and after another invasive pat down, and asked to show my prosthesis. I should have whipped it out, and put it in her hand, but instead I just unbottoned my blouse and showed her the edge. They acted as if they'd never encountered this situation, which I find hard to believe. All in all, the whole process, with delays in mustering personnel, took nearly an hour--I could easily have missed my plane.
Next time, I'm either going to whip my prosthesis out and put it in the bin to go through security, or I'm going to fly flat. It occurs to me that the prosthesis is made of silicon gel, and they could confiscate it. Maybe I have to put it in my checked luggage. I have filed my experience with the TSA, and requested clarification for the hundreds of thousands of breast cancer survivors who wear breast prostheses.
Nov 19, 2010 03:04PM - edited Aug 20, 2013 06:13AM by otter
Thanks, Barbara. For a traveler's story with a slightly different outcome, we have this one about a long-time flight attendant who'd had surgery for breast cancer and was wearing a breast prosthesis at the time of her TSA screening: "TSA Makes Cancer Victim Remove Prosthetic Breast."
The story comes courtesy of WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, NC: http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=13534628
The story was picked up today by CBS network news: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/19/national/main7070415.shtml
Shortened version: The flight attendant was asked to go through the whole-body scanner at the Charlotte, NC, airport in August (2010). She was concerned about the radiation, but she agreed to go through the scanner anyway. The TSA agent told her to flip her flight attendant ID badge around to her back before walking into the scanner, which she did. (Items like badges, ID cards, and even boarding passes, can block the waves and obscure the image.) Then, the flight attendant said, "When I got out of there she said because my I.D. was on my back, I had to go to a personal screening area."
The news article continues: "[The flight attendant] says two female Charlotte TSA agents took her to a private room and began what she calls an aggressive pat down. She says they stopped when they got around to feeling her right breast… the one where she'd had surgery."
According to the flight attendant, " '[The TSA agent] put her full hand on my breast and said, "What is this?". And I said, "It's my prosthesis because I've had breast cancer." And she said, "Well, you'll need to show me that".' [The flight attendant] was asked to show her prosthetic breast, removing it from her bra." [Italics are mine.]
The TSA seems a bit puzzled about the details of this incident, so they say they're "investigating" it. After all, the "official" TSA regulations state quite clearly that the TSA "will not ask nor require you to remove your prosthetic device...", although you will be required to show it to them and allow them to touch it.
Here is the official policy from the TSA website, regarding screening of "Assistive Devices and Mobility Aids," a category that apparently includes prostheses: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1370.shtm#0
There is no specific mention of breast prostheses on that page. The official TSA statement says, "Security Officers will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support brace as part of the screening process;" but, "Security Officers will not ask nor require you to remove your prosthetic device, cast, or support brace."
IIRC, that has been the TSA's policy on medical devices for quite awhile. The page has not been updated to take into account the whole-body scanners or the new, "enhanced" pat-down searches. There is a page on the TSA site that mentions experimental use of something called "CastScope". That was a backscatter X-ray device that supposedly was being tested in 2008 to see if it would work for scanning through casts, braces, prostheses, etc. I have no idea where that went, but perhaps it was superseded by the walk-through, whole-body scanners.
We know from anecdotal evidence that TSA screenings are not uniform or consistent; and the "official" policies on the TSA website or even in the secret documents we civilians aren't allowed to see are not always followed. So, IMHO, it's not too surprising that TSA agents at one airport would tell someone to remove her breast form for inspection when the official TSA policy -- at least, the one on their public website -- clearly says otherwise.
I had another link I was going to post, but I've misplaced it; so I think I'll stop for now.
[Edit: MusaMayer, you posted while I was still writing. Thanks for the report!]
Nov 19, 2010 04:42PM CapitalQ wrote:
I am so grateful to have found this site, and this discussion board in particular.
I've been fretting on and off ever since I heard about the full body scanners and the brusque treatment that some people have received from some TSA employees. Frankly, I really dread the idea of going through a scanner, having my foob set off an alarm, and being escorted to a room where I have to disrobe and expose my scarred torso to a complete stranger.
I'm resentful at the thought of having to discuss my mastectomy with security personnel; it feels like an assault on my privacy.
I've considered NOT wearing my prosthesis, but worry that if I have it in my carry-on luggage, a baggage checker will pull it out in front of people in line and question me about it. If I check it into my suitcase and they lose my bag, I'd have to go through a vacation without it, which means no bathing suit.
I've scolded myself for "being a baby" with all this fretting, but that doesn't stop the fretting.
I have to say, in my small northern Ontario airport, they've been doing an extremely thorough security search for many years, well before 9/11 (and it's STILL much more thorough than the screenings I've received in Miami and New York, much to my great surprise) -- the Canadians have always conducted these searches with professionalism and respect. But then, we Canadians are nothing if not polite and reasonable. In contrast, I've been spoken to quite rudely by American border agents a few times, and dread that a power-happy American TSA body screener could make me feel very humiliated.
Sounds like a cliche, but it actually makes me feel SO much better knowing I'm not the only one who has an emotional reaction to the invasion of privacy regarding TSA screening and this very personal situation...so thanks for being there, sisters!
Nov 19, 2010 05:15PM Colette37 wrote:
kmmd...I don't feel bad for the TSA agents because it is their choice to do their job or not. The government is supposed to be balanced and protecting our rights and liberties..I see none in this instance.
I agree with Israels tactics...ask everyone the same questions and take body language for evidence...not automatically labeling everyone as a suspect...they have one of the safest records in the world!
There are many lawsuits coming out about this, and rightly so. This has to be stopped for EVERYONE'S safety! I am talking about both the naked body scanners and their 'enhanced pat downs'..if you can't grope a person in the office or classes are being taught against it in school, then they have no right doing it when a person (no matter the age) boards the plane for Disney Land!
Nov 19, 2010 05:45PM otter wrote:
CapitalQ, you might be okay with packing your foob in your carry-on.
I normally wear a simple, fiberfill foob; but when I first started down this sorry path, I used to pack my official $$$ silicone foob in my carry-on luggage. Just in case ... for what, I don't know; because I never wear the darn thing. I decided to put the little case with the foob right on top of everything else in my carry-on bag. That way if there was any question, it wouldn't be difficult to dig it out for show-and-tell.
And, for some bizarre reason that I cannot explain, the idea of having to dig that foob out and show it to someone (in front of the traveling public) has never bothered me as much as the idea of having to allow a TSA person to inspect my chest while I'm wearing it. After all, once they see something in your carry-on that they don't understand, they won't let you touch it again until it has passed inspection. So, I figure, let some geeky guy rifle around in there and come up with a realistic-looking artifical boob. The laugh is on him, IMHO. He ends up looking like a boob.
FWIW, there was a brief period in which the TSA would not allow any "liquids" in carry-on luggage (and we all know how they define "liquids"). That didn't last long. Now, the TSA website specifically mentions "mastectomy products" and "prosthetic breasts" as among the permitted carry-on items: "Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids ..." (http://www.tsa.gov/311/311-carry-ons.shtm)
Of course, any medically-related "liquids" that exceed the 100-ml maximum must be put in a separate container, specifically "declared" to the TSA inspectors, and "presented for additional inspection": "Hey, Dude -- wanna take a look at my fake boob?" Heh heh.
On a related topic, I just found this article, which I think dates back to Feb. 2010. In it, a woman who'd had BC recon (lat flap + implant) describes her experience with TSA when the millimeter wave scanner detected an anomaly in her left breast. The story is outdated, of course, since it precedes the more intensive screening underway since Nov. 1. But it might be useful to some readers: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/06/my-left-breast-put-fancy-tsa-scanner-to-the-test/
Nov 19, 2010 07:00PM Erica wrote:
You are a font of information! I really appreciate your input on this. BTW, the news today is talking about a possible exemption of pilots from scanner/pat-downs. Could we be next? Not likely...
Nov 20, 2010 12:54AM hrf wrote:
I'm so glad I found this thread. I haven't travelled since my surgery but at the beginning of December I'll be flying to Boston (through Logan) and back. I have to admit I am very nervous about this. I'm still quite emotional and I'm afraid that being publically or privately humiliated will be very difficult for me. I'll probably also have to wear compression garments.
Nov 20, 2010 07:50AM - edited Aug 20, 2013 06:13AM by KerryMac
I actually am quite speechless after reading all this. Wow....
So, does anyone know if I go through the full body scanner then they won't then need to do a pat down? Might just be the easiest option.
Nov 20, 2010 08:43AM ktym wrote:
I still haven't heard back from TSA regarding my question about what their policy is in how often they change gloves and if wer'e allowed to ask they put on new gloves before putting their hands under our clothes and against our skin I've personally never seen a TSA agent change those gloves.
Nov 20, 2010 08:50AM BarbaraA wrote:
KerryMac, if you go through the scanner and they don't see anything they deem suspicious, no pat down.
Nov 20, 2010 09:12AM Anne888 wrote:
"So, does anyone know if I go through the full body scanner then they won't then need to do a pat down? Might just be the easiest option. "
Apparently if you wear a foobie, that triggers a pat-down. It shows in the scan, and they consider it a "foreign object" that must be investigated. So if you don't wear a prosthesis, you could just walk through the scanner. But no one is sure whether the foobie might be pulled out of your carry-on for examination. For me, the personal.groping would be less objectionable than having my prothesis pulled out of a bag for all to see. And I just will not walk around lopsided, not an option.
Nov 20, 2010 11:00AM crazy4carrots wrote:
Here's an article about people with prostheses (foobs, artificial limbs) etc. going through security at U.S. airports. Truly outrageous, IMHO.
Nov 20, 2010 07:55PM mrsnjband wrote:
I definitely don't want the extra radiation! I was hospitalized last week & refused to have a chest x-ray. I think the chest x-ray last summer was the cause of the whole problem, I sure don't want to go through a body scanner!
Nov 20, 2010 09:56PM CapitalQ wrote:
Otter, thanks so much for your reply; you have convinced me to do the carry-on option with the silicone breast prosthesis. Your experience, advice and great humour are much appreciated!