Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the News...

The latest headline about mammograms is noteworthy, not only for it's suggestions, but also to demonstrate the state of our medical care.
New Advice: Skip Mammograms in 40's, Start in 50's is the latest advice concerning mammograms. Now, speaking from personal experience, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Mammograms are painful and awful. Anyone who suggests otherwise is trying to brainwash you.

Are mammograms or the procedure of mammograms effective at early detection of breast cancer? That is the ultimate question. The answer, however, isn't so clear.
The short answer -- for some women, yes, it is effective. These are "high risk" patients, women who have a genetic history, a family history or a medical situation.

My question, my concern -- should ALL women be pressured into getting a mammogram at 40?

My answer - (and I am not a doctor) is NO.

I fell prey to the rhetoric about getting a baseline mammogram. See this post if you have any desire to read what it REALLY is like.... My gynecologist is very big on mammograms, so even before I was 35, she set me up for one. It was awful.
I had no red flags, no warning signs, no lumps, no thick skin, no nipple discharge, no family history, nada. So, I took the mammogram, under doctor's advice.
The mammogram technician was rough, insensitive and brutal. I was sore for 3 days after the exam and had to take pain medication - something I rarely do -- I didn't even take pain medication after childbirth.... But, the skin on my back was pulled in order to fit my small breasts into the ice cold vice, known as a mammogram machine.

The "good news" -- nothing showed up on the mammogram that was any cause for concern.

The reality: the mammogram was unnecessary. When I discussed the mammogram with my doctor, she pointed out to me that I shouldn't have had one until I was 40. I reminded her that it was HER suggestion that I get one and she was a little embarrassed by the error.
I explained, calmly, that I would not be getting another, unless there was some (red flag) reason to get one, that I was not going to do it as a matter of course. The procedure was painful, traumatic and I honestly think it tore my muscle tissue at the very least.

In addition, the mammogram that I received, the mammogram that women are told to get at age 40, or as a baseline mammogram is a SCREENING mammogram, an x-ray that can detect some types of tumors and some calcification. This is not to be confused with a DIAGNOSTIC mammogram that actually screens breast tissue and is more reliable and accurate.

So, it is my opinion that the rhetoric about every woman having a mammogram yearly or every 2 years, as a preventative measure is merely a way to guarantee payment for the extensive machine used to give mammograms. It is NOT in the best interest of each patient.

Are there some patients who would benefit from routine mammograms? Yes. Or at least possibly, but I am not one. Every woman is not one.

Medical care HAS to be personalized, not generic.
The idea that because I am 37 year old woman, that I can be put into a certain group -- regardless of my health status, my diet, my exercise, etc offends me.
I want my doctor to look at me as a separate entity from the patient before me and take MY medical history into account, rather than national statistics.

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