Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Making sense of mammograms
Doctors don't always agree on everything. Sometimes, one doctor might tell you to get a certain test and another will say don't bother. At times, you will find a doctor who will want to whisk you off to the operating room, while another will say "go home and rest." There are certain things, though, that patients count on being consistent. One of those things is a schedule as to when to get screened for cancer. For a long time, women heard they should get a mammogram every one to two years, beginning at age 40. Not so fast now says the American College of Physicians. (Full Story)
Based on looking at lots of different studies, they have concluded that the benefits of mammography in women aged 40 - 49 might be outweighed in some cases by certain risks. The risks include a concern about radiation exposure, findings on mammograms that might lead to unnecessary biopsies, worry and anxiety. The flip side is of course that you could find cancer early, which is so critical. By the way, all organizations seem to agree that women 50 and older should get a mammogram.
So, this really is a rub in the world of medicine. What might make sense for the public generally might not necessarily be a good idea for anyone in particular. Sometimes the public health recommendation is at odds with individual recommendations, as is the case here. Many doctors will continue to tell their individual patients to go ahead and get the test, even as recommendations reflect less benefit in women aged 40 - 49.
Keep in mind that many people will take solace in the fact they are not at "high risk." While factors such as family history, breast density and genetic mutations may qualify women as high risk, the majority of women found to have breast cancer never had any of these risk factors. In essence, they become the first person in a family history to have the disease. That was the case in my family, and I am delighted she did get the test. So, what do you do? Will this make you more or less likely to either get a mammogram or recommend it to a loved one?
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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