Last week I blogged on the topic “Mammography Screening for Breast Cancer: What’s a Woman to Do?” That blog was somewhat technical — although I think it presented both the benefits and the risks of mammography — and the fact that this is routine mammography is NOT by any means an easy decision to make. Now, a far more intimate and personal look at the topic is featured in a special report in the Washington Post where Veneta Masson, a nurse practitioner and writer living in Washington, explained the reasons for her decision to stop getting mammograms:
Masson cited a 2008 report by the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark, which noted that “if 2,000 women are screened regularly for ten years, one will benefit from the screening, as she will avoid dying from breast cancer.” At “the same time, ten healthy women will … become cancer patients and will be treated unnecessarily. …
“Furthermore, about 200 healthy women will experience a false alarm.” The “psychological strain until one knows whether or not it was cancer, and even afterward, can be severe.”
In other words, for every 2,000 women who choose mammogram screening, one life will be saved, and 210 women will be harmed. That leaves 1789 who will be relieved.
Masson, 56 years old, last had her mammogram 10 years ago. But, unlike her, virtually all of the women in my practice are still choosing to be screened.