New Mammogram guidelines raise controversy

I have been very disturbed by the news that a government task force based group of physicians and scientists found out that there is no value to mammograms for women aged 40 and up that mammograms should be done only for women over 50 and not yearly but every other year?

                                              Breast Cancer Pink Ribbon

My life has been personally touched by Cancer and somehow shaped a part of it, we have had cancer history in the family.  My baby sister a Medical Doctor, at the age of 30 felt a lump in her breast after giving birth to her younger son, but believed like these government task force panels doctors that women should start mammograms when they are older because of the side effects that might or might not be linked to Mammogram

Let me start by explaining what a mammogram is the process of using low-dose amplitude-X-rays (usually around 0.7 mSv) to examine the human breast (female or male) and is used as a diagnostic as well as a screening tool. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or microcalcifications. Mammography is believed to reduce mortality from breast cancer. No other imaging technique has been shown to reduce risk, but breast self-examination (BSE) and physician examination are considered essential parts of regular breast care. (Definition extracted from Wikipedia)

Coming back to my sister, she self medicated herself with steroids and antibiotics for a couple of months, but few months later the lump grew so much in size that there was an apparent size difference between her 2 breasts, after being pushed to check it by her husband and my mother, she had a mammogram done, and they asked her to follow it with an Ultra Sound test which was not a good sign.  When the results came back, it was the first day that changed all of our lives after that, she had breast cancer that had sent its merciless soldiers to invade her liver as a result of not doing the mammogram to check her lump on time, the metastasis (secondaries) in the liver were multiple and big in dimensions. 

A life prognosis was given to be for 3 years, she led a very tough fight, she lost her hair 3 times, she lost the skin on the tip of her fingers, the skin of the sole of her feet will fall out in flakes in front of her very eyes, chemo was excruciating and costly,  she kept fighting for 7 years and half from fear of leaving a toddler behind, but her body gave up on her October 22nd of 2008, leaving behind 2 sons age of 15 and 8 years, a loving husband and a family that has been stricken by her early although predicted passing.  The cause of death was pneumonia, as this is what cancer does, it diminishes or erases the immune system of the body to the point where the cancer patients can die from a simple flu that gets complicated.

I can not help but thinking that my sister’s life might have been saved if she did the mammogram on time, may be cancer could have been cured,  as her breast cancer had gone away, but the liver cancer remained till the end.

My thought is how many sisters, wives, mothers, daughters lives will be lost because of this new finding?

For most of the past two decades, the American Cancer Society has been recommending annual mammograms beginning at 40, and it reiterated that position on Monday. “This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over,” the society’s chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, said in a statement. (MSNBC news)

“The benefits are less and the harms are greater when screening starts in the 40s,” said Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of the panel of the government task force.

Mammogram breast cancer

There has always been debate about the pros and cons of mammography but if it saves one single person life it is well worth it.  The talk about the false positives and false negatives have been going on for years, but I can not help but comparing to the airport security; is it better to spend the money and scrutinize everything and everybody to assure our security  (which is by the way going through X-ray machines) or just to discount it because of the cost? I would think that prevention of one security incident is well worth years of applying strict security, don’t you think so? Didn’t we always learn better be safe than sorry?

Should I read the influence of the insurance companies in this new finding, why now? Why when we are finding ways to a new Health insurance, is it a coincidence or well planned timing?

These findings give the insurance companies the perfect excuse not to pay for these tests for the women that are 40 years old or to the women that are over 50 years old that will do it yearly instead of bi-yearly, isn’t this playing with human lives?  I am very passionate about this subject and will always be.

I would leave it for you to judge


Sahar Andrade


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