Friday, January 2, 2009


Self Breast Exam Day!!

A commenter asked me a couple of months ago about mammograms--many of you may be aware that there are mixed reviews about their effectiveness and safety. On the one hand mainstream medicine says that all women over a certain age should have annual mammograms; on the other hand some people are saying that the mammograms themselves are increasing the rates of breast cancer.
When I started googling around to see what I could learn, I quickly discovered two things: Everybody has a strong opinion on this, and there seems to be evidence on both sides. Rather than try to determine the 'truth' on this, I'm going to just provide you a lot of links. I am only including links to pages that had references--there were lots of pages that threw around numbers and statements but did not give references for them. I just can't take anybody seriously if they don't have stats to back up their 'facts.'
Also, while this post focuses specifically on mammograms (since they are the most common), it's also important to note that there are quite a few new screening methods on the horizon, including ultrasound and MRI scans. These new methods cost more, and are not yet widely available, but if you're worried about mammograms, they are worth looking into. Incidentally, current research indicates that these new options are far more effective than mammograms for correctly identifying breast tumors (fewer missed tumors, fewer false positives). benefits, risks, and what you should know about mammograms (they consider mammograms safe)
OurBodiesOurBlog: When to start routine mammograms (addresses the controversy over safety vs early diagnoses via screenings, includes lots of links--they recommend starting at a later age and having the mammograms less often if you are low risk) (personal note--this recommendation makes a lot of sense to me)
SafetyIssues Magazine: brings up some critical thoughts about what the data really means (for example: are women actually living longer, or just being diagnosed earlier?!) (personal note--I was not able to find resourses on this one, but read their articles on some topics that I know more about, and they seem to be accurate and objective) is a health site which many of the naturopathic/homeopathic (ie, not allopathic) health folks prefer. Every article I found there was anti-mammogram.
"The fact is, most women detect their cancers themselves, in the shower or in the bedroom. Regular self-exams help women learn the landscapes of their own bodies so that they notice the slightest change. BSEs send women to the doctor, and thus help detect breast cancers that mammograms miss." [link]
Here is a first-timer's story of her experience of getting a mammogram "A Very Squishy Public Service Announcement." She reported that it's not actually all that bad. Sure you have to take your top off, but she said it was not painful and was over quite quickly. (And really, if you've given birth, well, it's all been hung out there anyway...what's 10 minutes without a top, right?)

1 comment:

Lorie said...

It is so So important to do self exams! And it is so hard to remember and so not one of those things on the top of everyones list!

I knew absolutely NO ONE who had been diagnosed with breast cancer until two years ago. I went from knowing no one to having two friends and three family members!

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