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The Verdict on the Mammogram Debate

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Mammogram Procedure

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The Verdict on the Mammogram Debate
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SHOULD I KEEP DOING BREAST SELF-EXAMS?

Chances are, you've been reading about how to give yourself a breast exam since high school—it's been engrained in American women's heads since their teen years. So it's no wonder there was a sense of surprise when the federal Preventative Services Task Force also said that women stop giving themselves regular breast self-exams used for breast cancer prevention. Their reasoning was that data shows that 1 cancer death is prevented for every 1,904 women between the ages of 40 and 49 who received a mammogram. Also, false screenings can lead to painful biopsies, and feeling for lumps that turn out not to be cancerous can lead to anxiety before test results are conclusive.

On the other hand, medical professionals like D'Orsi think the risks of self-exams (essentially, women getting anxious over lumps that are not cancerous and/or "extra" medical tests being conducted) are still practical tools that women should use for cancer prevention. "With everything there's a risk," says D’Orsi. "What are the risks here? Anxiety, unnecessary imaging and biopsies, but the benefit is saving lives."

The verdict? Yes, keep doing exams at home, and if you have any questions (or need to brush up on your technique), consult your doctor.

IS THERE A CHANCE THAT NOW MY HEALTH INSURANCE WON'T COVER A MAMMOGRAM PROCEDURE?

Health insurance companies are still covering mammograms as they always have. In December, the Senate even accepted an amendment protecting women in their 40s from not being covered due to the federal Preventative Services Task Force's report. If you're a woman under the age of 40 and wish to have a mammogram, talk to your doctor. Many insurance companies cover exams for women in their 30s and even late 20s if there’s a family history or other risk factor.

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