Mammograms: Just Do It. Here’s Why.

By Martin Brown

mammogramDespite the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer’s contention in the New York Times that the benefits of cancer screenings were exaggerated by the medical profession, do yourself a favor:

Get one anyway.

Here’s why:

According to the Cancer Society’s own guidelines, women over 40 should keep having mammograms every year, because seven studies have shown that the test decreases the risk of death from breast cancer.

In fact, breast cancer kills 40,000 women a year in the United States.

Lately, there have been some high-profile women who are breast cancer victims, including Elizabeth Edwards, actresses Maura Tierney (ER, Rescue Me),  Christina Applegate (Samantha Who), and singers Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crowe.

Whereas Applegate, Etheridge and Crowe are survivors, Tierney is in remission, and sadly, Edwards died in December 2010 at the age of 61.

Granted, these guidelines also point out that mammography can “miss cancers that need treatment, and in some cases finds disease that does not need treatment.”

In fact, some researchers estimate that as many as one-third of cancers picked up by screening would not be fatal even if left untreated.

But which ones? No one knows, of course.

So what are women supposed to do?

Early detection is vital to survival.

What would help tremendously is additional research that will help doctors figure out how to tell dangerous tumors from the so-called indolent ones.