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Mammograms: more complicated than meets the eye

Posted Sep 12 2008 12:05pm
My midwives hate it when it's time for my yearly checkup because we get into a gigantic fight about mammograms, which they believe everyone should get starting in your late thirties. The last two times I was in, I said, "haven't you read the studies that show little difference in outcome between people who do and don't have mammograms AND the slight increase in cancer in people who have yearly ones--possibly because the radiation involved promotes tumors?"

In the aftermath of my most recent checkup, the midwife even said, "Could you, uh, not be so loud and not talk about it in front of the other patients?"

Why not? I think being informed in one's healthcare decisions is prudent, but more often than not, healthcare providers see anyone who doesn't meekly and unthinkingly obey as a pain in the ass. From the BBC:
Lead researcher Dr Peter Gotzsche, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, said: "Women invited to screening should be fully informed of both benefits and harm.

"When screening advocates and their organisations produce information materials, they generally emphasise the benefits and omit information on the major harms.

"This needs to be corrected to ensure that women can give genuinely informed consent before joining a screening programme."

In 2001, the same authors concluded there was no convincing evidence that screening programmes reduce mortality from the disease.
Not to mention: They also revealed a further 200 women out of every 2,000 experienced distress and anxiety because of false positives - a result that indicated a cancer was present but was later found to be wrong.

I'm not saying that mammograms are completely useless--they DO detect cancers. But for every one person whose life is prolonged, 10 people will have unecessary (and perhaps life shortening--think of stress, invasive surgery, toxic chemo/radiation) treatment.

And I'm not making recommendations to others, but letting your know that I myself am opting out of getting my boobs mushed for no good reason. I'd rather spend that time taking a walk in the fresh air.

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