Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mammograms: are women over screened?

I have to admit that up to recently I had not thought much about mammograms. I have thought about screening in relation to pregnancy and newborns and have believed for a considerable time that screening is a tricky business; the benefit of preventing the illness/condition may be outweighed by the downside of the screening. Screening can be an ineffective use of financial resources in a low risk population and may lead to unnecessary medical intervention. Routine screening has been seen by some feminists as a means of controlling women: the posit behind screening being that women's bodies are inherently faulty and therefore must be regularly monitored. But two things have recently made me think about my own personal decision about mammograms. The first event is that a very dear friend of mine, the same age as me, has breast cancer and has been/is very sick. Being with her as she deals with the implications of her prognosis has been thought-provoking, to say the least. The second event is that an appointment for a mammogram turned up in my letter box today; I turned 45 recently and mammograms are offered to women free of charge in New Zealand, to women over 45.

I am rather scared about having a mammogram because I have heard it is painful. I must admit I have done no reading about the risks of breast cancer versus the benefits of screening. So, do I just go along because that's what is recommended or do I practice what I preach: read the evidence and make an informed choice? It's not so easy being a health consumer as some would make out!

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