A woman in her 40s has denser breasts, which means mammography will miss some cancers because it can’t see them. Or it will see normal lumps and bumps and misread them as cancers, which can lead to further testing, sometimes biopsies, more anxiety and money not prudently spent.
Mammograms are not freebies. Every time you go in for a mammogram, you get radiated and there is a cumulative effect. We’re exposing women to radiation for no real benefit for 10 years.
Personal anecdotes matter, of course, but this was really looking at the hard numbers. In order to save one woman’s life in her 40s, you have to screen 1,900 women. You could conversely say you’re unnecessarily radiating 1,900 women to save one life. If you are that one life, you might say it’s worth it. If you’re one of the 1,900 women who don’t need the X-ray, you’ll say it doesn’t make any sense.
We know that X-rays over a long period of time damage cells and are their own risk factor for cancer, including breast cancer. That’s the concern here.
We have no problem telling people to get prostate screening at 50, or to get colonoscopies starting at 50. Now, we’re just saying mammography at age 50.
The scientists have been looking at this for a long time. This is not President Obama screwing with your health care. This is not the insurance lobby trying to take health care away from people. This advice is transparent scientists making recommendations based on data.