Why You Must Ask "Why" When it Comes to Mammography and Other Medical Procedures

by Danielle Cavallucci

When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released the following: Read This Before You Have A Mammogram, my friends began an outraged email exchange over the fact that we may have been roused into receiving and even seeking unnecessary, potentially damaging procedures, diagnoses and treatments at the hands of for-profit health care magnates.

An article released by the Center for Medical Consumers, points to evidence that over-screening may have negative effects on hoards of women, despite the widely propagandized message that rigorous mammography and screening "save lives." As quoted in this article: "Based on the findings from seven clinical trials, Jorgensen and Gotzsche describe the cost to women in terms of unnecessary treatment. For every 1000 women who undergo mammography screening for 10 years, they report, one woman will have her life prolonged; five additional women will receive an unnecessary cancer diagnosis and treatment; and three women will have a benign tumor biopsied."

With so much conflicting information, it's no shock that my friends' reactions and queries ranged from abhorrence for having been subject to costly treatments and screenings unnecessarily to outrage that some women who ought to be tested might not get tested due to the method in which this information was released.

As always, the truth lies somewhere between the two poles. At the very least, we should hope and trust that every woman, by the time she's sexually mature, will know how to conduct a proper and thorough breast self-exam. We should at least be able to rely on doctors to be sensitive to the needs of individuals rather than using absolutes dictated by profit-mongering and a broken health care system when advising and prescribing treatments, screenings and the like. We should be able to count on unbiased, less sensational and paranoia driven reporting of fact. And, perhaps most of all, we should be able to count on a system that is in support of not over-screening those of us who would choose to forego unnecessary medical procedures of any kind. No one should be strong armed or scared into a procedure they do not fully understand.

My 27-year-old cousin, whose mother passed away from her 4th battle with breast cancer only months before, succumbed just last year despite rigorous and regular screenings, tests and medical care. I think that either of these women, one of whom was warned by her mother's misfortune, would side with my other aunt and a dear friend of mine, both of whom had their breasts sliced, diced, prodded and poked to remove what, in the end, turned out to be benign tissues, when they claim rigorous mammography may not always be the best for everyone.

When consuming health care at costs that are awfully inflated, the old principal of Caveat Emptor, or buyer beware, must come into play. It's unfortunate that women are so often the victims of poor information. It's our responsibility to take matters into our own hands, to become educated and to make wiser decisions about our health and well-being.

Unfortunately, arriving to the right decision isn't always easy. However, there are a few resources producing slightly more balanced information for those of you interested in gathering additional information. Visit one of the following consumer-advocacy based organizations whose economic interests in skewing statistics is considerably lower:

  • The National Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Breast Cancer Action
  • The Center for Medical Consumers

Here's to achieving the maximum levels of health and wellness for all women. May we learn to trust our instincts where our bodies are concerned; and may we realize that awareness is not necessarily just reading the news.

For additional encouragement about managing your body your way, visit Sensual Fusion.