The Mammogram debate…..should she or shouldn’t she?

I like many of you, was pretty surprised yesterday when a government panel of doctors and scientists decided that marching into our doctors office to have a mammogram when we turned 40…..really wasn’t necessary after all. We were just wasting our time….oh, except for the thousands of women who had breast cancer, and had it found and treated.

See where I’m going here? You will never, ever convince a woman whose  mammogram found her cancer, whether she was 45 or 35, say…”Well, I think that mammogram could have waited another 10 years.” No way.

So I just don’t get the thinking here by this esteemed panel of doctors who speaking in terms that sounds a little to me like a conversation(argument)I had years ago with a well-respected gynecologist in town, about Thin Prep pap test. At that time it was new, and you had to pay extra to have it done, but it was and is, a far more sensitive test at catching cervical cancer. This doctor said, “I just don’t think it’s cost-effective. It will catch more cancers, but not a high enough percentage more to make it worth the extra money being spent.” I understood what he was saying, but replied, “Yeah, but if it’s my cervical cancer that isn’t caught…for me, it’s 100%.” And he agreed that was true. Today Thin Prep is standard for all pap tests.

As I heard someone say today, “It’s easy to throw around numbers when you’re not one of them.  Isn’t that the bitter truth?


6 Responses

  1. There are some occasions where statistics desensitize us to problems we face in this world. Anything that can be done to prevent cancer should be done! I don’t go through the prostate exam every year because it’s a wonderful experience (NOT!), but because I don’t want to be on my deathbed saying, “if only I had gotten my prostate exam earlier….”

    I’ve lost too many family members and friends to cancer to let statistics lull me into skipping necessary tests.

  2. Donna, My family is littered with female cancers and hereditary colon cancer. Any test that will detect any cancer at its earliest is worth it’s weight in gold. I will have any test, no matter how uncomfortable, if it has any degree of accuracy. I’d rather have a false positive than no result at all. I wonder how many people on that panel have watched a loved one die from a cancer. I wonder how many people on that panel would tell their family members NOT to have an early detection test done. I wonder about people telling any of us not to have a test that has been proved to save lives. As Tracy, I’ve lost too many family members to be told to skip early detection tests. Love your blog! Susan

  3. I am one of those individuals who was not given a thin prep pap test and ended up having cervical cancer (which was discovered by chance when I was having difficulty conceiving a child). I then had a hysterectomy at 34 but was lucky enough to have a child through a gestational surrogate. I don’t pretend to understand the whole mammogram debate but it sounds like they’re willing to sacrifice a few (or many?) to save on the cost. Maybe I’m being too cynical??? Love to read your blog!!! Tara

  4. Donna, I echo Susan’s comment about having tests that catch cancer at it’s earliest being extremely important. To that end, I looked up exactly who was on this panel and found not one oncologist ! You would think that such a panel of “experts” would include some people who have been part of the process. Today there were several measured retractions from several Government agencies. Maybe they will finally listen to the people on this one. Richard

  5. Thanks for the replies guys….wow, Richard, I haven’t checked the panel my self…that is interesting. And I did see Secretary Sibelius doing an about face this morning. Hmmmm.

  6. And I know of too many people who have had breast cancer in their 30’s and 40’s. My high school class’ valedictorian died in her 30’s (leaving a husband and daughter behind). I have a friend who had her original cancer in her 30’s (and is now struggling with a 2nd reoccurance). One of my favorite singers, Olivia Newton-John, in her 40’s, discovered she had breast cancer. The singer Kylie Minogue.. I think she was in her 30’s? I can go on and on and on … (sadly!)

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