I went to the doctor recently for a long overdue "annual" exam and since I'm now of a certain age, the topic of mammograms came up. I've read a bunch of conflicting information on mammograms lately, mostly revolving around the number of false positives, overdiagnosis and the medical machinery one gets trapped in if something does show up. My doctor did mention that other countries, Western Europe mainly, don't start doing mammograms until women are 50.
I asked her what the recommendation was and she said that it's every year starting at forty and if you have three clear years, then you can do it every other year. Which sounded like a lot to me, given the fact that they don't seem tremendously accurate and, given the fact that I know of women who have had something show up on a mammogram and freak out over it and get a ton of treatment and all the while they aren't sure exactly if treatment was actually necessary in the first place.
There are other diagnostic tools, but they are expensive or have higher amounts of radiation and I'm still at a quandary of what to do. I don't have any history of breast cancer in my family, took low dose birth control pills only briefly, breastfed for two years and have no history of anything suspicious. My doctor was in the middle of offering me choices of where to get it done (there are three nearby facilities) when I told her I wanted to think about it. She was kind of shocked, I think, and then stated, "well you did just turn 40." Like I was a ticking time bomb.
New guidelines suggest that screening mammograms should be done every two years beginning at age 50 for women at average risk of breast cancer. But the Mayo Clinic still recommends screening mammograms start at age 40. What the heck are we supposed to do with this conflicting information?
I discussed this with my husband, who knows all about cancer and it's happy fun times and false info. He suggested I take her advice and get a base line mammogram, and if there's anything that shows up, ignore it and get tested again in a year.
I told him that's all fine and good, but there's no way anyone can comfortably ignore a potentially cancerous tumor once you know it's there, even if it's just a spot. You're going to want to aspirate it and fall into the cogs of treatment. Not to mention that increased exposure to radiation from all those mammograms increases the risk of cancer and the fact that compression can increase the risk of cancer cells spreading if, in fact, they do already exist in the breast.
I haven't decided much of anything yet, so I thought I'd ask my readers what you do, did or what you think about mammograms and their necessity in women under 50, or 45, for that matter. What say ye?