Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breast Cancer News

Have you heard about the new breast cancer screening recommendations? I think it's going to be controversial for some time to come. A recent "task force" looking into breast cancer screening has recommended that women don't begin getting routine mammograms until age 50 and then from age 50 to 74, getting a mammogram every other year (and in the UK, once every three years is the recommended interval).

The other finding--and it's been talked about for some time--is that self-exams do little good; now they also think physician exams aren't much better.

I'm not sure what I think about all this. I believe statistics show a decrease in breast cancer since we've become more aggressive about screening, and that must be attributable to something, but then again, there are likely other factors that may play a part in the decrease.

I've also thought in the last few years that yearly mammograms--in women without a family history of breast cancer--are somewhat excessive. I worry about radiation, for one thing, and once a year--or more if a repeat film is required--seems like a lot. And I know it's the subject of a lot of humor, but really, I wonder what harm there may be in being compressed in a vise-like device?

I hope scientists and medical professionals will find some other way of screening that's safer and more effective. In the meantime, I suppose we'll all need to get what information we can, discuss it with our physicians, and follow our instincts. If you'd like to read the article, click HERE.

What are your thoughts on mammograms and the new recommendations?


Gran said...

I thought I would check in before I headed to bed and just read your blog. By the way I enjoyed you in class this evening, even if you did not show up with your text book.

My thoughts on mammograms are this - I would be dead, as in dead, if I had waited to have a mammogram until I was 50. There is no history in my family of breast cancer. Both times I did not feel any lump when I self examined my breasts. In the time between my first breast cancer and the second one, mammogram technology/equipment/science have become much more advanced.

The earliest possible detection is the only thing on earth at this time that gives a person who is diagnosed with breast cancer a fighting chance of beating it.

We are stuck with the radiation in mammograms at this time. Until the science world comes up with another way to early detect a breast cancer, we have to submit ourselves to mammograms.

I beg we of you reading my comments to run, not walk, to your doctor, get an appointment for a mammogram. The life you save just might be your own.

Apple box put away - over an out.

Gran said...

PS - the cookies that you brought to Knot-y Embroidery Ladies this evening were yummy!

Gran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ratherbquilting said...

I'm with Gran. I think the annual dosage is small enough that it more than makes up for any risk. I kinda resent that "they" are changing the guidelines without a whole lot of advances in other methods to take the place of the annual mammos. As for me, I'm going to DEMAND annual ones. If I have to pay, so be it.

Kelly Ann said...

When I heard that the recommendation for a mammo didn't start until 50 my first reaction was, great I've had almost 9 and haven't reached 50 yet, but then I thought about the security I felt after each mammo knowing that I was okay. While there is no breast cancer in my family that doesn't mean it can't start. I do agree there needs to be a better way to check for breast cancer with out having our boobs smashed and stretched out of place. With all of the technology that we have today you would have thought someone could come up with something that wouldn't expose us to the pain and radiation that we've endured.

With the decrease in recent years of deaths attributed to breast cancer I do believe it's because we've started early and gotten awareness out there.

I'm gonna continue to have one yearly and still push for people to get them...but you know with all of this info the insurance companies are gonna stop covering them annually and then we're back to square one.

The Chicken Lady said...

Dumb. I think Mammograms are a good thing, although I don't like them. It's like a seatbelt. For most of the time, they are just something on you, but that ONE TIME is all it takes. I had a lump a few years ago and found it through self-exam. The mammogram found the exact spot, then they did an ultrasound to find out that it probably wasn't cancer (it wasn't...whew). I figure anything you can do to reduce the risk, why not.

Vicki W said...

I am one of those that has had totally unnecessary needle biopsies twice and surgical biopsy once because of two radiologists misreading/getting overexcited over my mammogram and refusing to listen to ME and what I was telling them about MY BODY. The first one was at 35 and the other two at 47. Frankly, I KNEW there was nothing wrong. The tissue they were concerned over had been there since I developed breasts. I am still angry over the last one because the radiologist was such an ass (and is supposedly one of the very best in Virginia) and she purposely and unnecessarily caused me a lot of anguish and stress over it.

Frankly, it's time we were responsible for knowing our own bodies and managing our own health. I don't think it's a good idea to wait until 50 for a first mammogram, but I believe, and have believed from the beginning, that my prescribed annual mammograms from the age of 40 were excessive.

But, I also believe that we are overly aggressive with many forms of medical testing, including colon cancer screening and even annual checkups. With my BP, cholesterol and blood sugar results, it's a total waste of my insurance company's money for me to get a complete physical every year and I refuse to get them. But my Doctor recommends them every year because she gets reimbursed for it. We all know that the people who need them, don't get them.

We can no longer take the "if it reduces risk, then we should do it" path. Just listen to the current health-care debate. We simply cannot afford to operate like that anymore. PERIOD. Very few of us would get annual mammograms if we actually had to pay for them. We should all treat our medical treatment as if it were our own money being spent. That would solve most, if not all, of our health care cost issues. The Government is not a magic money fairy. Every time we ask the Government to pay for something we are taking money from our family and our neighbors. Same with the insurance companies - they are not "evil" - they are business that hire our friends, family and neighbors. Why have we suddenly decided that it's not OK for insurance companies to make a profit - the whopping 3.3% that they do make? Hospitals make an average of 3.6% profit. We don't seem at all disturbed that wireless communication companies make well over 10% profit and the software development industry makes over 22% but how dare insurance companies and hospital make any profit at all!

You asked and that's what I think about it all. We Americans need to get our heads out of the sand and get a reality check.

Nothing is free. When the Government takes over health-care management there will be many more "new" recommendations, like this one. We are going to get less for more. Maybe that will force people to make some lifestyles changes and take more personal responsibility for their own health. That would be a very good thing.

Suzanne Kistler said...

Mammograms? When my mom was dying of breast cancer, she made me promise to have mine yearly. It's a promise that is not difficult to keep, and I know the "demon" has been put off another year.

I've had two biopsies, both on lumps that were self-detected. The second showed up on the mammo. Both were benign, but neither belonged.

My surgeon is ADAMANT - self-screening needs to be a priority, because we often find "something" first. Mammos are a diagnostic tool, and with my family history of breast cancer, we want to keep and use every tool available in the toolbox.

Wouldn't you rather have a false positive than miss a serious problem? I think I would. I KNOW I would...

Well, you asked...

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

I went in after finding a lump 22 years ago. No biopsy or mammogram was order; "just part of my cycle at that young age" they said. Waited six months and it had grown - A LOT and I went back - it was Stage 3. After a mastectomy, radiation and chemo, I'm still here. I believe it's mostly because I prayed so hard because I did not want anyone else to raise my two young children, but agree - you need to know your own body and not take an answer you don't believe.

Anonymous said...

My mom has lost both of her breasts, and lympnodes as well. With her history, my doctor is very proactive with me. I have had yearly mammograms since I was 35, and a couple of times had to have 2. I feel self exam is very important, and I rather be safe than sorry. I love "George and Herman", they are a part of me that I hope to have with me all of my life. Hugs! Pam

Jen in NY said...

It's hard to say to someone who's had breast cancer that screening mammograms are "not worth it." But the fact is, many mammograms precede unnecessary tests, worry and expense. Yes, mammograms have saved many a life...but for the VAST majority, nothing is found and if it is, it's nothing to worry about. So I can completely understand the "better safe than sorry" point; but Vicki has a great point that someone's gotta pay for it. If it were all out-of-pocket then so many unnecessary tests would not be done. It's really a balancing act. I am tired of people complaining about how high insurance costs are. Doctors and their patients need to decide together what procedures should be done...NOT the insurance ocmpanies.

Jan said...

Even tho I'm not faithful to doing so, I think yearly exams are of the utmost importance and should start way before 50! I lost my Aunt to this terrible disease and my Dear Sister 'n Law has battled it twice now. I shudder to think what could have happened w/o those yearly exams. God Bless all those wonderful ladies who are currently fighting for their lives.

Gran said...

Think about this - our black and hispanic sisters have the highest rate of breast cancer and deaths due to breast cancer. Why, they do not have early screening, or insurance or the most important fact of all, we have not reached their population with the educated and informed importance of understanding their bodies.

At the risk of sounding defensive - yes, I am a breast cancer survivor, but my breast care knowledge started years ago in helping women care for their breast during the lactating process. Early detection is the only fighting chance we have to save our lives.

I prayer is that "balancing" the health care costs/mess is not balanced on the backs and breast of all my sisters in this country and around the world.

My cuppa tea is done and I am off to enjoy another day as the Knot-y Embroidery Lady at BP&HH.

Greenmare said...

wow what a huge discussion you started! I don't know what the answer is, I guess it's different for each woman. I have absolutely no history of breast cancer on either side of my family, so I did sort of feel it wasn't as important when I had my first mammo at 40. and of course my first thought was, "you mean I've had 5 of these when I didn't have to??" (only 5 becuase I didn't go yet this year) still, anything that keeps us around to quilt another day is only a good thing!!

Heckety said...

My Mom was in the Breast Clinic yesterday morning and she was distressed to see several women there in their twenties (you get referred to this clinic by the GP.) Also she found the lump in her breast through self-exam several years ago and reckoned she'd be well-dead by now if she'd waited on the health system. They can't be everywhere.