I came across this story this morning. It tells us that less than half America women attend their scheduled, recommended mammogram examinations. The article cites possible reasons for this short-fall in take-up, specifically “discomfort from the test, lack of available screening centers, general non-compliance or denial.” All of these have some validity, I suppose, but I think this list omits another likely underlying factor.
Through all the pro-mammography propaganda that women have been bombarded with for many years now, research has emerged which clearly shows two things:
1. Many, many women need to undergo mammography to save a single woman’s life. For example, in September research was published which indicated that to prevent one breast cancer death, 2500 women would need to have a mammogram.
2. There are considerable risks associated with this practice. In particular, women risk being diagnosed with and treated for cancers that would not have bothered them in the natural course of their lives. The research I wrote about in September also revealed that of 2500 women getting a mammogram, maybe 1000 will have to endure the potential stress of being told by their doctors that there’s something suspicious on their mammogram. And about 500 of these will go on to have a biopsy – an invasive procedure around which there is usually considerable anxiety. As a result of biopsy, it is estimated that between 5 and 15 women will be treated unnecessarily for a condition that was never going to bother them.
Now, up until relatively recently the ineffectiveness of mammography and the very real hazards associated with it were, essentially, untold. As a result, literally millions of women were not given access to the information they require to make truly informed decisions about whether or not to have a mammogram.
All that has changed now, and principally because of the internet. While many doctors, charities and our Governments still seem reticent to tell the truth about mammography, any woman with internet access can now learn the other side of the story regarding this practice.
My suspicion is, therefore, that many women who do not attend their scheduled mammography appointments do so because they have weighed up the evidence and decided that it’s just not for them.