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Breast Cancer Gambling

November 17, 2009
Posted by Georgia Relich

Well, I’m sure everyone has seen the news by now. The USPSTF has issued new recommendations for breast cancer screenings–no mamms until 50 and then every 2 years after 50. As a breast cancer survivor and one who was diagnosed at 45, it’s hard not to feel alarmed by this news even though there’s a great number of false positives in women under 50. It’s a numbers game. It’s all about the percentages. About 20% of the mammograms done in women under 50 result in a malignant diagnosis. Guess that 20% just isn’t high enough to warrant the cost associated with all the screenings. Same reasoning applies to self-exams. A woman feels something, goes to her doctor, orders the mammogram which costs money, and it’s benign. So they discourage women from self-examining to avoid those extra mamms. This same rationale is governing the limited use of MRIs as a diagnostic tool–too many false positives. It worries me. I know too many women who were diagnosed under the age of 50, and they weren’t just numbers to me.

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