Squeeze Me Tight … Or Not

mammography-machineOn my to-do list this month is to schedule my annual mammogram for January. I like to begin the new year with a hopefully “all-clear” on my health, even when it requires squeezing my 36-D breasts into the form of 1-inch pancakes. This year’s resolve, however, has been challenged.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued new recommendations about the timing and frequency of mammograms. I know that every time I’ve opened, flipped, clicked on a media device in the last few days, there’s been a vociferous roar reacting to the suggestion that we change the current practice of annual mammograms for women 40 and over.

In its review of scientific evidence, the USPSTF recommended that regular screening mammograms begin at age 50 as the panel “did not find sufficient evidence to specify the optimal screening interval for women aged 40-49,” given clinical considerations.

For a rational and hyperbole-free take on the recommendations, I turned to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure site for its position. The site lays out the risks and benefits of routine screening, urges women to react “calmly,” and recommends talking to your own physician to make the choice that’s right for you.

Well, I know that the choice that’s right for me is having the girls tightly squeezed once again in 2010.

What are other Wise Women’s reactions to the controversy?


  • Sonja Says:
    11-19-2009 09:11:53

    I must say I had an emotionally negative reaction to the release of this study. I’m sure all of us have several friends or know of someone who’s had breast cancer. In my situation, I’ve seen many friends in their early 40′s detect clean one year and end up with advanced breast cancer the year after resulting in mastectomies. It seems so illogical to avert a preventative measure (mammos or self-exams)that is a top killer of women.

  • Barb Says:
    11-19-2009 11:08:39

    This is an interesting one. One of the challenges I face as an American (with American biases) living in the UK, is that there are sometimes different health protocols here.

    One example. Kids are not immunised for varicella/chicken pox here. However, every child on the island of Jersey (population 90,000) has now been offered the swine flu injection.

    In the UK, women do not have routine mammograms until the age of 50. This is something I’ve always debated with my doctor, since my US bias is 40. My doctor has always calmly explained that unless there are specific indicative risk factors, it’s not necessary to subject myself to the extra rays! The wisdom here is that the vast majority of early detection comes from self-examinations, which would then be followed up by mammogram. So, I find it very interesting that the US may be raising the routine screening age to 50.

    Similarly, pap smears here are only done every three years; which is different than the annual in the US.

    So, while in “Rome” I am doing as the Romans do! Which suits me just fine since I once fainted during a mammogram (34A’s no picnic either!). However, I am doing so while having a dialog with my doctor which seems like really good advice from Susan G. Komen, since everyone is unique.

  • Sharon Says:
    11-19-2009 19:43:26

    I think it should be up to every woman and her doctor. I avoided a mammogram for as long as I could, until after age 45, and then my doctor wanted a baseline for future comparison. Since then I’ve had two mammograms, two to three years apart. I have no family history and have had no symptoms, so this protocol is what I have decided to follow.

  • Catherine Says:
    11-20-2009 07:44:40

    There has been such an intense negative reaction in the media to the release of the results of the meta analysis that I fear the opportunity for rational discussion has passed. A similar study ten years ago resulted in similar recommendations. A great hue and cry resulted and nothing changed and discusssion ceased.

    Yes, the results seem counterintuitive, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid. We wise women deserve to hear both sides of the issue without panic and the overload of alarmist rhetoric.

    As with the great estrogen/progesterone debate, we will have to do our own research and consult with our physicians as to which course of action makes sense for us. We have charge of our own bodies and ultimately we need to decide whether to we will follow the new, but now quashed, recommendations.

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