So We No Longer Need Mammograms–Oh, Really??

I guess I should be thankful I’m over 50 and considered high risk, now that they’re saying the harm in routine mammogram screenings outweighs the good. I still may be able to get a yearly mammogram. You may also–but good luck getting your insurance to pay for it if you’re between 40 and 49 years old.

So far, I haven’t seen anything that addresses whether this new study made a distinction between film mammograms and digital mammograms. My ductal carcinoma in situ was discovered on my first digital mammogram. I’ve read and heard from medical professionals that digital mammograms are more effective at catching early-stage cancers in dense breast tissue like mine, which has been identified as a risk factor. So are they saying digital mammograms don’t help either? Or did they overlook them?

Because my breast cancer was caught before it became invasive, I did not need chemotherapy, which raises another question. What if a woman went without screening until her DCIS did become invasive, and had to go through a grueling chemo regimen that could have been avoided by -oh, I don’t know–early detection by a mammogram? The rationale behind the new recommendations is that mammograms create more unnecessary testing and anxiety than they produce in life-saving benefits. But when DCIS is allowed to progress to the point of being invasive,wouldn’t chemo qualify as both unnecessary and anxiety-inducing? Who’s going to do a study to see if we see a spike in the numbers of women having chemo? How much does that cost in dollars and quality of life? Yet mammograms do more harm than good? Really??????

One more thing–they also stopped recommending self-exams. If mammograms don’t work and self-exams don’t work, what preventive options are we left with for this disease that is still killing a lot of women? Crossing our fingers and hoping for the best? Lighting a candle and praying to the supreme being of our choice?

If this evidence-based decision what we can expect from health-care reform, I’m not just confused, I’m worried. Ladies, talk to your doctors. And your House representatives. And your senators.


One thought on “So We No Longer Need Mammograms–Oh, Really??

  1. You know I never really gave it much thought – film vs. digital. But my radiologist must have switched. I've always had an enlarged lymph node that makes every new radiologist ask for a second film before sending me on my relieved way. This year was different, however. They took the digital pictures – told me all was well and sent me home. The following Monday I received a call telling me that they wanted me to come back because the "architecture was fuzzy". Thinking that the equipment had malfunctioned I agree to return with only a small stab of concern. Once back for filming they explained that the "architecture" was my breast. They took several more shots before declaring me fit to go. And I received a whopping bill for those extra shots. I don't mind saying that I was annoyed – they scared me AND charged me for it. But when I look at my friend and neighbor fight lung cancer with aggresive chemo (because no one thought an x-ray was necessary when she complained about a persistant cough) I still think I was the winner here. Prevention and early detection!

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