I can’t believe it is over a year since I posted. I had my mammogram last week, and going to an excellent facility really makes the process easier. When I arrived, I requested that my x-rays be read while I wait, since I have to travel to get to this better than average women’s center. They were more than happy to oblige, and I only had to wait five minutes while one of the three radiologists read them. So I left without the fear of a callback. Once you’ve had callback, you know that getting a routine screening leaves you a bit uneasy until you get the letter saying that everything is okay.
Also, I was asked if I wanted a 3D mammo and while I have not researched this extensively, I did read that it emits more radiation. The radiation in the standard mammogram troubles me, so I told the technician I will stick with the regular one.
I have not done any additional research on the value of mammography other than to discuss it with my doctor. Although I have concerns about this path, I have not yet been able to find a better solution to the problem of this screening. I just don’t want to take a chance and skip it when all the leading physicians and organizations are in agreement on this one thing. Does it cause unnecessary biopsies and does it fail to catch fast growing cancers? Yes, on both counts. But again, there is no perfect screening and right now, this is the only thing acceptable to my doctors so I will stick with it, but I am certainly open to other ideas.
One thing that might help is to go two years instead of one, according to new research. This way, there will be a reduced amount of radiation, but the routine stays in tact. I did wait 15 months–not 12–to get mine. I generally do push the limits for many screens, knowing that guidelines are probably more stringent than they need to be. That annual breast cancer screening is still the norm is suggested by the fact that the technician mentioned my tardiness and asked if I had trouble getting an appointment. I just told her no. Anyway, I am glad that’s over and I will probably do it again in another 12 or 15 or 24 months.
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.