I am a 51 year old woman. Eleven years ago, when I turned 40 my doctor, of course, said time to have a mammogram. I had heard all the horror stories about the pain you suffer from the pulling and squeezing of your breast so I was not looking forward to the test, but I did agree to have one. Self exams and annual doctor exams had revealed nothing, and with no history of breast cancer I was not concerned about what the test would find
I survived the test; it was not as painful as all had made it out to be. My pain, however, occurred the next week when my doctor talked to me about the results of the mammogram. He said there was a small tumor showing in one of the breast. He went on to say it was probably just a fatty tumor but it would be best to have it checked out by a surgeon.
The next two weeks waiting for the appointment with a surgeon were not pleasant. All I could think about was the worse scenarios. What if it’s not just a fatty tumor, what if it’s much more?
For me the outcome was good, my tumors were just fibroid in nature. Since that first mammogram I have had one almost every year. I did, once, get to skip a year. Since that first finding nothing else has every shown in my test.
While the whole ordeal was very stressful for me, I do not know how I would have reacted if I had not received my first mammogram last year and these things were discovered.
I understand all the concerns about false positive results, other unnecessary test, and even the concerns about the radiation from the mammogram even possibly causing cancer itself; however I believe waiting until a woman turns 50 for her first mammogram, when there is no history of breast cancer in her family, is not the smartest recommendation.
My story, alone, shows what would happen without that test early in life. Instead of waiting until 50 for the first test I would rather see the first mammogram at the age of 40 for a good baseline. If nothing shows then a mammogram every 5 years, until the age of 55, should be significant. After the age of 55 I believe every two years would be significant to insure early detection of breast cancer.
I used to think that after a certain age screening for breast cancer would not be necessary; however two years ago that though process changed when my then 85 year old mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treating breast cancer in a person this age is very difficult. She has never had a mammogram. Had she done so the cancer might have been detected much earlier in her life and treatment much easier to handle.
I hope that insurance companies will not make it difficult for women to have a mammogram before the age of 50 if she desires one. I do look for this to become yet another procedure where prior authorization will be needed before being performed.
Women, you know your bodies. Do what’s right for you. Fight for the decision that makes you feel comfortable. However whether is be age 40, or age 50 have that mammogram.