I know I’ll get flamed for this….
Further, I agree with Dr. Susan Love who says in her blog entry on this topic: “we need to help women understand what mammography can and cannot do, and focus on finding the cause of breast cancer and preventing it altogether. I don’t want women going for mammograms they don’t need, or feeling I false sense of security because they have had one.” She’s getting flamed, so I’m sure I’ll get flamed.
One thing you need to note is that if you find a lump, nobody’s going to deny you a mammogram or a biopsy, no matter your age, and your insurance will likely pay for it. That’s one of the issues, right? Whether or not your insurance will pay for a mammogram based on the new guidelines. Heaven forbid you should be hit in your pocketbook. Have you priced a mammogram? They cost an average of $102 in the US. If you’re so concerned, cough up the dough yourself or borrow it from someone or go to Komen and ask for the funds. But know that if you’re under a pre-menopausal woman, a mammogram is a poor detection tool.
As Dr. Love says somewhere in that blog entry or in a link from it, mammograms simply do not work that well for pre-menpausal women because their breasts are dense and show up as “white” on a mammogram, as does cancer. It’s a flawed tool for young women. Why not develop a better one and stop making people think they’re “okay” if they get their mammogram or that someone is trying to kill them if their mammograms are taken away? Why not re-direct some of the “early detection” money and try to figure out why so many aggressive cancers are attacking younger women?
We need to focus more money on finding a cure because more and more young women are being diagnosed with very agressive breast cancer. And here I mean women who are under 40 and fall outside the old guidelines anyway. The kinds of cancers that mammograms catch best are slow growing, non-aggressive, and respond well to treatment no matter when you catch them. Also, though more non-aggressive breast cancers are being detected earlier, the death rate from aggressive breast cancers has not decreased significantly.
My situation is an example of a complete failure of mammography. I had a mammogram in October 2003 — no problems. I had breast pain in February 2004 at age 44. I was told that breast cancer is not painful and this was probably a cyst. It is a myth that breast cancer is not painful, but I was going to one of the “top 50 doctors in Seattle,” so who was I to question her? I was also told I could get a biopsy but, since the mammogram done just 4 months earlier showed nothing, it was probably a waste of time. I started bleeding from my left breast in June 2004 — Stage IIB, fast-growing, aggressive breast cancer that would probably have been Stage I had I done anything in February. And now, at age 50, past the magical 5-year supposed “cure” mark, it’s back — Stage IV metatstatic breast cancer.
Furthermore, I started getting mammograms very early in my life — before age 40 — because I have always had a lot of cysts. Now I wonder about all that radiation exposure. Could that be what brought about my cancer?
I know lots of people will disagree with me for various reasons. Flame on! I will probably just let you argue amongst yourselves as I’ve said my piece and I don’t intend to change my mind. Maybe you can go yell at Dr. Susan Love. She doesn’t have chemo brain.