Reluctantly Getting My Mammograms

I just had my mammogram a few weeks ago and the results were fine. Whew! When you get the films taken, you just never know what to expect, so it is a good feeling not to have a callback!

I was recently going through some old papers and came across an article by Shannon Brownlee who wrote a”What’s wrong with Cancer Tests?” The article was printed in Reader’s Digest in April of 2009.  In the article, there is a nifty little side bar that includes the suggestion that screening for cancer might be right if there is a family history, if you have a risky mutation, or if you already had cancer. Yet, she suggests thinking twice if you are under 50 or over 70, if you’re frail, and if you are afraid of being harmed by a treatment you don’t need. Most people would fit into the “think twice” category, and people who already know they are at risk would probably be best off screening. I also found a short YouTube video of Shannon Brownlee speaking about Cancer testing. Her approach is well-reasoned. I think we all have to think hard about whether we want to be tested, the risks of being tested, and the risks of not being tested.

This blog that focuses on DCIS is about the choices we have to make when presented with questionable mammogram results, and it also delves into making general screening decisions. During my recent screening for example, the technician took two extra films because they were not perfect and she prefers to do extras rather than take a chance of a callback because the doctor is not sure. So right there, there is more radiation exposure just to avoid the potential of a new set of films.

I guess my strategy now is a bit passive-agressive: get the mammogram but delay it as much as my comfort allows.

And I think for many of us–myself included–we only have so much time in the day to explore these things. When it comes to critical decisions, we do the research, but when it comes to screening, we tend to rely on the judgment of our health care professionals and kind of what everyone else is doing. My experience with just following the rules did lead me to a point where I had to do the research, and that was the inspiration for this blog.

I  will continue to update my story and add news about DCIS and breast cancer where I find it. In the mean time, don’t hesitate to pose a question. I would be happy to research and write about any relevant tangents. I hope that in some way I have helped people looking for information as they make incredibly difficult choices when exploring their options regarding breast health.


About Rhonda Tremaine

Rhonda Tremaine is a blogger and book author who lives in Central, New Jersey. She is also a founding partner at ENoetic Press.

Posted on July 20, 2014, in breast cancer, DCIS, mammograms, Shannon Brownlee and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Is it true that the radiation received from a mammogram is the same radiation we receive in a cross country airplane flight ??? I think I read this someplace in my research of my own breast cancer dx….so if this is true – don’t delay your mammograms and let them get the pictures they need for clear results. I had DCIS. 3 cm of it – with a nice side tumor of triple negative breast cancer. My mammogram only showed calcifications. It was me pushing them for an ultrasound that revealed my issue. Be your own advocate. Especially if the exposure equals and airplane ride.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Laura. Sorry you had to go through that but glad the mammogram caught it. There is a lot of debate about radiation in addition to the wisdom of physically compressing the breast year after year, and the unnecessary biopsies from fuzzy results. But I appreciate stories like yours because we have to look at everything. Mammograms can save lives and I definitely take that into consideration. I opted for a surgical biopsy just to be sure because I couldn’t live with the 5% chance …I know how agressive bc can be. Shortly before I had my biopsy, my sister in law Cindy was diagnosed (her diagnosis was actually similar to yours if I remember correctly). She blogged her way through it. You might want to check it out….it is an inspirational story: In Cindy’s case, she had a clean mammogram but soon afterwards found a lump herself. I hope research can point us to better screening methods in the future, and really, breast self exam (BSE) is free, easy and potentially life-saving too. It is not enough, but at least it is safe. Best of luck to you!

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