No Mammograms Before 50? Really?

by Melanie Edwards on November 23, 2009 · 1 comment

in Women

Breast Cancer Awareness RibbonLast week a government task force said that the majority of women don’t need mammograms until the age of 50. On top of that, they also said that breast self-exams are unnecessary. Since then, I’ve been thinking about this over and over. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Don’t we hear about many women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s? And some even in their 30s? Why would a group of doctors and scientists advise against early screening and detection?

According to the Associated Press article, the task force stated that “…such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving women’s odds of survival.


I don’t personally know anyone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but some extended family has had some minor scares. And you know what? A biopsy is what found the cancerous area or lump, which then led to removal of the area. If there had been no biopsy or even no mammogram, I’m sure it would have led to a much worse scenario. So in essence, weren’t their “odds of survival” improved by detecting it early?

Even if the biopsy had found nothing and it had been a false alarm, so what? In my opinion, better to be safe than sorry. It’s not like it’s that much of an inconvenience to have a biopsy. In fact, I dare say that it’s more of an inconvenience to the doctors and insurance companies than to the individual.

Yeah, I said it.

Because, that’s all I can think about. Saying that there are unneeded biopsies that do not substantially improve the odds of survival for women sounds like just a number game to me. There’s more biopsy results coming back negative than positive for cancer so all of a sudden it’s unnecessary? Awesome.

And just how will the insurance companies interpret the findings of this task force? Will they stop paying for mammograms for women who are under 50 years old?

Like I said, I keep thinking about it and am still not sure what to make of it. But, it definitely seems illogical to me. In the meantime, I will continue to do my breast self-exams, especially since I’m about to turn 30 in a few months. And you can never be too sure.

If you want more information, you can read the full article from the Associated Press and the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s response to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations.

What was your reaction when you first heard the news? Let me know in the comments below what you think about the task force’s suggestions.

Photo: Cheryl’s Art Box

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