Mammogram Overkill

by Diane St James - Date: 2007-02-05 - Word Count: 955 Share This!

I have to wonder just how many women get unnecessary mammograms? I've had some scares already in my 49 short years and frankly am somewhat hesitant about believing that the high technology today is so wonderful!

Early last week I dutifully got my annual mammogram although it was about a month past due. Hey, I don't like going 3 days before Christmas, just in case it is bad news! It went surprisingly quick and without a lot of wait in the waiting room. I noticed an improvement there as well. They removed that huge poster about Women and Heart Disease displaying horrible statistics. I remember thinking last year how ironic it was. So we women, waiting to hear the outcome of our diagnostic X-rays could figure if the cancer doesn't kill us, heart disease will.

Last Thursday, two days later I got a phone call about coming back in. I had pretty much forgotten about it and was a bit surprised by the call. I was told they wanted to get another mammogram of my left breast. I asked why as my right one was the one previously diagnosed with micro calcifications after which having a botched up needle biopsy, appear to not be an issue any longer. The reason given to me was that there was a shadow seen on the left one and that it may just have been the way it was taken (such as overlapping tissue or some such thing), but they wanted to be sure.

My heart started pounding and I was thinking "Oh no, I may have cancer". It doesn't matter how lightly the pleasant lady on the phone put it, I was being called BACK and that couldn't be a a good thing. I was told that they would take a core mammogram of my left breast and also set up an appointment for an ultrasound in case they determined that I needed to have that done right away after that. No matter how much I tried to reassure myself nothing was there because for the umpteenth time I didn't feel any kind of lump or anything unusual, the fear was right there not very far from my thoughts for the next week.

When I arrived today I was told they were going to take a bilateral of each breast and then two of the left again. I challenged the technician because I was told I would only need the left one done. I have learned to not just trust anyone wearing a white (or pink for that matter) lab coat. Why should I subject myself to more radiation and a higher medical bill that was surely going to be given to me - mistake or not? Turns out I was right and just the left breast was doomed to being painfully squished and flattened this time around.

Luckily I didn't have to wait very long for the results when the technician called me back in. She told me that my left upper breast was more dense than the right one when I had my mammogram, which I am guessing was a more dense shadow and so they wanted to take a closer look at the left one. When they did, there was nothing suspicious there. My thinking is the density got thinned out from the x-ray machine grabbing just that section and smashing it as thin as possible and nothing suspicious was found. I didn't need an ultrasound and could call the nurse later if I wanted to have the official report (but she had heard the radiologist reading the films and that is what he said).

Later I decided to call and got a nurse who although was extremely nice, was skirting my question. She was explaining how if they had seen something I would have needed an ultrasound to explore it further, but they did not need one. I guess she was waiting for me to say "Well that's great news, thanks" and hang up. But I wanted to know more than that. I asked if my left breast then showed that it was more dense than the one they took a year ago? She couldn't really answer me. She just said the left had more density than the right and so again I asked, "So it was more dense that last year's mammogram?". Her response was "It must have been".

Well that is baloney. I have no solid proof that the radiologist first compared this year's mammogram to the ones done a year ago (as a diagnostic mammogram no less). For all I know just this year's were viewed and since the left didn't match the right one in density, another one was ordered.

Don't get me wrong. I am completely ecstatic that I don't have breast cancer! But I would have been happier getting a form letter that nothing was found. Just how many other women go through needless second mammograms on a daily basis. I'm sure some of those turn out to be actual findings that do need to be diagnosed and treated. But for every one that truly have something for the poor woman being clamped down by the x-ray machine to worry about, how many more are called back for follow up mammograms that really aren't necessary. But who cares right? Better to be safe than sorry, right? While that is certainly true, it still causes me to ponder how many women are needlessly subjected to the added gray hair, stress, anxiety, radiation exposure and medical fees when they already have enough to worry about with caring for their family, home, work and who knows what else is on their plate! At least I can happily say I don't have to deal with all this again for another year.

Related Tags: health, women, cancer, stress, anxiety, worry, radiation, mammogram

Mammogram Overkill
by Diane St James
Copyright 2007

Diane St James is a full-time work at home mom who wears many hats and is involved in many things. Visit her website:

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