General Question

skfinkel's avatar

Do mammograms really help?

Asked by skfinkel (13511points) January 2nd, 2008

Beyond the party line, has the incidence of breast cancer deaths actually gone down? Are the cancers found in mammograms from which women survive different from the ones they find from which women don’t survive? Are we just finding lots of small things that would take many years to develop and not really kill vs. the killer ones that grow like mad?

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4 Answers

hollywoodduck's avatar

They say that early detection is the key. The earlier they detect it, the better they can treat it and therefore reduce the numbers of deaths. The best way to find these lumps is to do breast self exams and regular mammograms after a certain age. Yes, perhaps they are finding many small things that wouldn’t have developed into something necessarily life threatening in the person’s lifetime. But, why take that chance?

gailcalled's avatar

Personally, a mammogram saved my life. I had to postpone my yearly one for 8 weeks after I broke a wrist. Breast cancer is not always a lump.The film picked up a small cluster of microcalcifications that could not be felt. Bioposy showed that they were malignant. During lumpectomy, surgeon found the leading and second lymph nodes were also cancerous so the cancer was spreading. So I was grateful to have had the surgery asap. Then I had chemo and radiation, and then five years on the pill, tamoxifen, unpleasant but bearable, and am 11 years in remission now.

I don’t know what the general answer is. That’s my experience. I can’t answer the statistical issues. I understand that the # of breast cancer deaths has dropped.

mdy's avatar

@gailcalled – thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m so glad to hear you’re in remission! :-D

I was told by my family doctor that early detection of breast cancer can lead to a less aggressive treatment regimen. For example, if cancer is detected but there’s been no metastasis (it has not spread), a localized surgery may be all that’s needed.

However, once there has been metastasis, chemotherapy is usually recommended as part of the treatment. This can be quite taxing, especially for older women. If early detection via mammography can spare you that experience, then it’s definitely worth it even if early detection were not to prolong your life. At least the quality of (what’s left of) your life will be better overall.

Aster's avatar

I don’t want to get spammed but I have a Strong suspicion that directing radiation to the chest wall Causes cancer. I wouldn’t have a mammogram (which is really 3 films, not one). Heart disease was the #1 killer for decades; not sure what it is now but cancer , I think, can be prevented with supplements and diet.
My best friend had chemo once and died of cancer 3 yrs later. I know that isn’t a good representation of much of anything. I need to take this pc in and get it repaired

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