It's been all over the news, the recent recommendation that women between the ages of 40 and 50 no longer need to have a mammogram, and women over 50 can have one every other year instead of every year. Plus there is now a recommendation that women no longer need to perform monthly breast self-exams (BSE). It's too stressful.
I had a baseline mammogram at age 35 just in case (on my doctor's recommendation). At age 39 I found a tumor through BSE. It was confirmed by mammography and needle biopsy to be malignant and I entered the world of breast cancer.
Was I nervous about the baseline mammo? Yes. And about the tumor I could feel, about the follow up mammogram, the needle biopsy, and the three-day wait for results.
Was I glad to have had the testing anyway? You bet! Because I wasn't even old enough at 39 to begin having mammograms. But I got cancer anyway.
Several of my younger friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer had difficulty getting their doctors to believe that they had found a lump, or a suspicious rash, and needed follow up diagnosis and care. Many of them are now dead, because breast cancer in younger women can be more aggressive than in older women.
So here are my feelings about these recommendations:
1. I hope that the insurance companies don't view this as a reason to no longer fund mammography in women who fall outside the age criteria.
2. I still recommend to my mother, my sister and my friends that they have annual mammograms. Because mammography catches breast cancer earlier, when it is more easily treatable.
3. Let's not allow this to keep our country from health care reform either.
4. For anyone who doesn't know what to do, I say: Talk to your doctor. Ask her what she recommends. Discuss the new guidelines in detail with him. And make a health care decision based on your medical needs, not the potential stress that other women might feel.
It could keep you alive.