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Breast cancer screening – what’s a patient to do

The discussion is heated about breast cancer screening, no question about it… I’m a woman between 40 and 49 years old and I have a slightly high risk of cancer (my mother is a survivor after treatment of in situ cancer discovered when she was  70 years old). So I’m in the middle of the debate and watching it closely. What I get is there is not enough data to go one way or another. If I were all by myself I would probably opt for less screening. But as far as I know, my gynecologist is strongly in favor of annual mammogram screening. I love her thoroughness and I would hate to lose her as a doctor, so I’ll just go with the flow.

Fortunately I’m healthy enough that I don’t see my gynecologist more than once a year, so it’s difficult for me to know where she stands. In my yearly exam two years ago, I wanted to discuss the issue, and she quickly added her two cents that I should get the annual mammogram screening. It’s difficult to find the time to add this discussion in the yearly short appointment. But maybe she could post her opinion on a blog post for all her patients to know where she stands?

A link to some other site that describes the issue in a balanced way would be enough. I would think this wouldn’t open her up to any liability and it wouldn’t take long. Like Dr. Len’s blog from the American Cancer Society: From the blog post, I know where he stands, I understand what the study conclusions were and now I trust him so much that I would go with his recommendation to screen anyway… I feel better informed, I feel that I got a better picture of the reality and I feel empowered to make a decision.


Just as I posted this… the discussion is heated indeed… Gary Schwitzer with a commentary on how a breast cancer announcement could have been handled. I highly recommend Gary’s blog. I learned a lot from it as a patient and I think physicians and other healthcare professionals can learn how to better frame their messages.