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Should You Get a Mammogram?

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If you haven’t heard of last week’s mammogram controversy, you have probably been living under a rock.
On November 16, 2009, I watched in horror as Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, interviewed Dr. Susan Love, one the foremost experts on breast cancer. Dr. Love, a breast cancer surgeon, clinical professor at UCLA and founder of the Dr. Susan Love Foundation, echoed the US Preventative Task Force’s new mammogram guidelines, saying that raising the age to 50 for women to start getting mammograms “would bring us up to the world’s standards.” She went on to say, “These (new) guidelines are inline with what everybody else in the world is doing right now—where they have government run screening programs.”

Think about that statement. Americans have always been told that we have the best healthcare in the world. Do you really want your mammogram guidelines “inline” with countries that have socialized—government run medicine—like Canada (they come to the US for good and timely healthcare), Great Britain and France? Do you really want a healthcare program like the one in Cuba?

Dr. Love went on to say that women over 50 have denser breasts than women under 50, and that denser breasts make mammograms harder to read, which means that some tumors are missed altogether. I agree, mammograms may not be the best tool to find breast cancer, but to those women under 50 who find their tumors with a mammogram, they are everything.

Dr. Love also admitted that raising the age women get mammograms would be rationing, “but it’s rationing of the best kind, and saving the other money to find something that works.” What are the odds there will be any “saved money” or that it will go toward finding “something that works?” The words “government” and “saved money” don’t exactly go together. This week, two respected oncologists, a radiologist and a representative of the American Cancer Society told me the new mammogram guidelines are the government’s way of getting us ready for fewer services, if Obama’s health care policy is passed.

In addition, the same government Task Force said doctors should stop teaching women to do self breast exams. That is frightening. I know of too many women, myself included, who found their breast cancer while doing a self-exam.

I am outraged at the US Preventative Task Force’s guidelines. The only thing they prevent is early diagnosis. Sure, mammograms are not the perfect detection tool, but until we develop something better, get your mammograms; talk with your doctor and listen to your “little voice.” Mine saved my life. Even if you are confused about the new guidelines, take matters into your own hands, starting with your breasts. Do regular self-breast exams. Without a self-exam, I would be dead, now.