How to Decide To Have a Mammogram or Not

Cancer, Cancer, Cancer!

~ Ugh ~

Are you as sick of reading about it as I am?

What I mean by that is, I’m ready for better treatment options, better survival stats, and better diagnostics.

Let’s look at the mammogram.

How to Decide To Have a Mammogram or Not

Even the medical community at large is not in agreement as to how many you should have, what age to start them, or, get ready for this one: if you should even have them AT ALL.

Holy Moses, the vapors are taking hold, my babies!

Not have a mammogram?

What is happening to the squishing of boobs industry (yep, it’s an industry)?

IMPORTANT NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN: I am NOT a doctor, nor do I pretend to be. All information and opinions are mine and mine alone. Talk to your doc, a REAL doc, to discuss your needs.

Let’s start with the last thought: Should women not consider mammograms as part of their health program?

“For nearly a century, public health organizations, professional associations, patient advocacy groups, academics, and clinicians largely viewed cancer screening as a simple, safe way to save lives.” But these days, even though we’re all looking at the same body of evidence, “[d]iffering interpretations about [the] benefits and harms of [mammograms] has led to conflicting recommendations…that range from intensive [annual] screening starting at age 40 to no [routine] screening at all [ever].” Currently, the four main groups in the U.S. “charged with making [mammogram] recommendations” each set contradictory guidelines. So, what’s a woman to do?”

What are we supposed to do?!

Well, you might not like my answer, but what we must do, in order to make the best choice for ourselves, is to do your due diligence by going to the actual studies.

I can tell you from experience that going this route is labor intensive (take good notes along the way), and once you reach a decision, your doc may not be happy. The best I can say is to be prepared to make your case, be comfortable in your plans and stand firm in your choice.

It’s your life, your body, and you get to decide how your care goes.

Here’s one of the most telling and interesting snippets from a doc:

“…there’s this “double standard”; “women are encouraged” to just do it, “while men are advised to” weigh the pros and cons, “although the fundamental issues to consider are [actually] very similar” between the two tests. “The dissimilarity in how [organizations like the American Cancer Society] view” the patients’ role in decision making “couldn’t be clearer. Do [they] believe that men can handle uncertainties regarding screening tests…,” but that women might just get all “confused”? Men get to “make informed decisions” about their bodies, but women are merely “summoned.”

Oh, no they di’in’t!

They did.

Of course every situation is unique. What’s good for me might not sit well with you. That’s the beauty of it – we get to be informed and make our own decisions. Yet, so much of what I’m researching is fear-based pushing of women into procedures they may or may not need.

I want the stats – the science of the day – and that’s all. The medical community can keep their fear.

Which brings us to: Can mammograms save lives?

TAKEAWAY:

“The authors of the Cochrane review, however, wrote in to say they used the wrong number, and that if you look at the studies they considered were “adequately randomized,” there did not appear to be any significant “mortality benefit” from mammograms at all, and that the “data certainly do not support the popular idea that [breast cancer] screening saves lives”—accusing the American Cancer Society of being more of “a political organization with financial ties to…the multi-billion dollar [mammogram] industry.”

~head explosion ~

The farther we fall down the rabbit hole of whether we should or shouldn’t, the more the actual science contradicts what women are being told is the science.

Shame on them.

The end game is there is concern that unnecessary mammos “may kill…as many as” are saved by the procedure.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had follow-up mammograms after regular one?

~me~

You can see how it adds up.

Which brings us to the idea that what we’re doing to find breast cancers – by making the annual trek to get a mammograms – may indeed be causing breast cancer.

Let me stop here and say that this one bit of info, if true, makes me throat-punchy.

In my treatment, I weighed what’s called risk-benefit ratios. I had breast cancer; I wanted it gone. To get from here to there, I had to do something.

Sadly, I had little time to make my decisions, so there’s stuff I’d do differently (another post to come!), but if you are newly diagnosed the number one thing to ask is how much time to you have to make informed decisions about your treatment.

Here’s what is known:

~ DNA breaks have been found with one mammogram.

~ DNA breaks = damage to breast tissue.

~ Mammograms can cause cancer.

~ “The risk of radiation-induced cancer from mammography is not negligible, [but] the potential for mortality benefit is generally considered to outweigh the risk of death from radiation-induced [breast cancer] attributed to mammography screening”—”a benefit-to-risk ratio in lives of” 10 to one or more.”

I see your head spinning. This post offers information contrary to what women are bombarded with on a daily basis.

My Case –

Here’s what happened to me:

I have dense breasts, which means I almost always get called back for lots of extra pics, then we finish off with an ultrasound, which is the way to go initially. Ultrasounds have no radiation risks. So why not start there?  One word: Insurance. They usually will not allow.

You could pay for it out of your own pocket, but many can’t afford the added costs.

This needs to change. Like yesterday.

So, I go in, have the regular mammo, then on to the added shots, then to the ultrasound.

As a obedient poodle, I jumped through the hoops and was deemed healthy and cancer-free.

Yeah, not so much.

I FOUND MY CANCER – not the docs, or the film.

They were stunned after the biopsy (I could feel an actual lump).

I was furious.

Why?

The lump had been found. The films taken. The docs (two of them) declared it “fine” and sent me on my way for SIX MONTHS, while my cancer grew.

It wasn’t until a biopsy was taken, that the diagnosis was made – by this time a stage 2-3 tumor.

They had the mammograms. I had done as I was directed.

Yet, it made no difference, other than the fact I had to be radiated again and again, increasing my chance of a radiation-caused cancer.

Am I telling you not to have a mammogram?

OF COURSE NOT.

Am I telling you to have a mammogram?

Nope.

The pointy point of this post is for you to find studies, or a place to find studies, that will help you make a decision for yourself.

Your health – your life – your decision.

If you have no idea where to start, CLICK HERE for links to lots of vids and study-based information.

My doc is great. She doesn’t agree to some of what I do, but she respects my decisions.

She has told me I am her most informed patient and I wear that distinction as a badge of honor.

Honestly? It would be nice to have unbiased information available that isn’t driven by politics or money all in one place instead of having to dig it out ourselves.

That’s not a reality…yet.

I am hopeful for that day.

You matter. Your decisions on whether to have a mammogram or not, matter.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Onward!

Please share this post with anyone you know who is on the hunt for information.

Please Share on Your Favorite Social Media! ~ OMT thanks you! ~
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Comments

  1. Audrey Johnson says:

    Very good information. I too have always had to have the follow up shots.
    So far, everything has always been fine, but it makes me wonder.
    Thank you for sharing the info and the great advice to do our own research.

  2. Trish Olson says:

    Ok. :::takes deep breath and dives in::: I just refused to have one this year because i did it last year and I’m not in any particular risk group. My Dr. didnt argue it with me, but I bet next year it will be a bigger fight.

    • Take your research with you. It’s your health; you’re choice. (need me to come? lol)

      • Trish Olson says:

        LoL would you? The techs always get one of my fibroids, to the point of tears but do not care.
        I do self checks, had a biopsy 6 years ago, but I would much rather have a chest X-ray yearly. My Mom had lung cancer and I smoked for decades before I quit. That’s the risk group that scares me.

        • Your health – your life – your decision. I tell every doc I visit: I’m here because of your experience, education and wisdom, but I’ll make the final decision.

          Start researching your risk group. Ask for what you want. Don’t stop till you find a doc who will be a partner in your health.

          You can do this. Love you, friend.

  3. Thanks for sharing this thorough report on Grandma’s Briefs. I encourage all patients to take responsibility for their own health. Ultimately it is your decision which should be made after valid research and consultation with a physician you trust.
    Your situation illustrates that there are few, if any, absolutes in medicine; there are always exceptions to what we belief to be accurate information, and we are always learning new things. The “experts” frequently disagree and probably always will on some things.
    Preventive care is a misnomer; most of the time we are merely decreasing the risk of something happening, we don’t know for sure if we prevented it, or if it just wasn’t going to happen anyway. Hence the value of healthy habits, like not smoking and eating well.

    That said, the last thing a doctor wants to hear is “You didn’t tell me, you should have done, I didn’t know, etc.” Make informed health decisions and live with it. .

    I agree with you. “Your health – your life – your decision.”

    • Thank YOU for commenting and sharing your thoughts with us, Aletha.

      I totally agree with your assessment of making informed health decisions and living with it. I try like hell to do that.

      Taking control of one’s health can be exhausting, especially when in the midst of care, so I try to remind folks to have someone they trust be their go-to in those times.

      My docs all agreed on ONE thing: While the stats (oh, stats!) told them my risk factors were unbelievably low to ever be diagnosed with breast cancer, my health prior to diagnosis made my trip through treatment easier.

      Takeaway: There are NO guarantees, but in the meantime, take care of yourself. You never know when you get to dip into that bank of strength.

      Eat your veggies and fruits; move that body, yo!

  4. Great article. I’ve lost my best friend to breast cancer and a friend’s daughter just died this past week (age 43) after 11 year battle with breast cancer. I HATE cancer and find all the information confusing too. Great post and great info. Take care of yourself!

    • It’s heartbreaking to read this – I’m so sorry for your losses.

      The information, and how we can access it, needs to be better – WE MUST DO BETTER.

      I f’in’ hate cancer.

  5. You have to do what you think is best for you. I get my mammograms but I have no history nor do I carry the genes. My decision. I am 67 and my doctor says I no longer need pap smears which ok but I still go in for a vaginal exam, ovarian cancer is an older woman’s cancer which doesn’t show on a pap anyhow.

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