The headline of the article screamed, “Mammogram effectiveness questioned.” And I put down my morning coffee to pull the newspaper closer to my face. Articles about mammograms always affect me and interest me greatly. I feel a close connection to mammograms. I am certain that a mammogram saved my life. It found the cancer at a very early stage. I don’t want to sound overly religious here, but it was a God-thing that the radiologist was able to determine that the tiny specks on the film were carcinogenic.
The article reported research from”New England Journal of Medicine” that suggested mammograms are overused, they often detect non-harmful cancers, and do not detect advanced dangerous cancers. This report may cause lots of consternation among women and their doctors. As I read, a question popped into my head- mammogram or not to mammogram? – is that the new question? Women already lead lives of multi-tasking. We take care of the kids, drive the carpool, direct the company and squeeze in time for health concerns. If we are keeping mammograms on our long to-do list-we need to know that they are effective.
I am a five year breast cancer survivor and have spent countless hours prodding, begging and beseeching women to get mammograms. If this article’s information is correct, women may turn their backs on mammograms and dismiss concerns about breast cancer. What a mistake that would be. Dismissing concern about breast cancer is like being in a small, windowless room with a vicious animal . As long as you keep your eyes on it, you have a greater chance to avoid being bitten. If you look away and get careless, the animal may strike.
Breast cancer does strike like an animal. The article gave the sobering facts that breast cancer is the leading type of cancer, and the cause of death in women worldwide, with nearly 1.4 million cases being diagnosed each year. Those statistics should cause a woman stamped at mammogram centers everywhere. Women should want to be checked to determine if this dreaded disease has infiltrated their bodies. Sure they are uncomfortable. Let’s be completely honest- mammograms hurt. It is awkward to stand in front of machine, hold your breath, and have your breast flattened- all for the sake of health.
The issue of over-diagnosis is an undeniable problem. Needless biopsies are frustrating. Yet, I cannot help but think of the upside to the problem. What if you had not checked it out, and cancer was present? Is not a bruised breast worth the outcome of knowing the status of one’s health? I think so.
It seems like a high stakes gamble to walk away from mammograms. I pray that they can be improved to avoid the problems outlined in the article. Some say prayer and modern medicine don’t mix. I do not care. Prayer changes things.