Monday, November 26, 2012

The Truth about Mammograms?

I found an interesting article in my local paper yesterday that was picked up from the Associated Press.  The article was titled 'Study finds mammograms lead to unneeded treatment'.

I may have skipped reading the article if not for the fact that 1) I've had two call-backs after a mammogram and 2) I know several women who underwent 'preventative' mastectomies.

1) Several years ago I came home to find a message on my answering machine that said, 'Please call the hospital regarding your mammogram.  We need to do some follow-up testing'.  I nearly had a heart attack.

As it turned out, there was absolutely nothing wrong and the follow-up scans were not needed, just costly.

Last year, I again received a phone call.  The mammogram showed a mass in one breast.  I actually told the nurse who called that I was pretty sure it was a cyst, since I knew that I had several in that breast.  She said I could be right but that I would have to come in for a biopsy.

So with trepidation, off I went to the hospital.  While being poked and prodded, the doctor eventually hit the spot just right and the cyst broke.  Tests on the the tissue that was removed showed it to be non-malignant.  I have no idea how much all of that cost.

I decided in the end that it was better to be safe than sorry.

2)  The first time I ever heard of someone having a 'preventative' mastectomy  (not sure if that is really what they are called) was well over fifteen years ago.  A neighbor had a sister who was diagnosed with breast cancer and so she decided to have a double mastectomy, just in case she might someday develop cancer.  When I asked around among my friends, they also knew someone who had done this.

Since that time I have met other women who opted to have the mastectomy after a test for the gene that causes breast cancer (they heard about this on Oprah) or as a follow-up to a lumpectomy, 'just in case'.

My first thought when I hear of surgery is 'What are the effects of the surgery itself?'  I have undergone the 'knife' on nine different occasions.  Only one surgery, to remove hardware in my leg from a previous surgery, was elective.  I had some serious trepidation about a mastoidectomy in 2000 after reading about possible complications, but everything turned out OK.  OTOH, surgery in 2004 to remove a blockage in my kidney resulted in nephritis, despite the use of antibiotics.  Sulfa drugs were needed to knock it out.

So, surgery itself is not without complications.  The article raises some interesting questions.  If I receive a call in the future, I am not sure how I will react.  But at this point in my life,  I doubt that I will undergo anything 'preventative'.  That too presents a risk.

1 comment:

  1. I asked my internist about this last week and he gave me a resounding push to keep getting mammograms.

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