Mammogram Overkill

I have to wonder just how many women get unnecessary mammograms?
I've had some scares already in my 49 short years and frankly am
somewhat hesitant about believing that the high technology today
is so wonderful!

Early last week I dutifully got my annual mammogram despite it
was about a month past due. Hey, I do not like going 3 days before
Christmas, just in case it is bad news! It went surprisingly quick
and without a lot of wait in the waiting room. I noticed an
improvement there as well. They removed that huge poster about Women
and Heart Disease displaying horrible statistics. I remember thinking
last year how ironic it was. So we women, waiting to hear
the outcome of our diagnostic X-rays could figure if the cancer does not
kill us, heart disease will.

Last Thursday, two days later I got a phone call about coming back
in. I had pretty much forgotten about it and was a bit surprised by
the call. I was told they wanted to get another mammogram of my
left breast. I asked why as my right one was the one previously
diagnosed with micro calcifications after which having a botched up
needle biopsy, appear to not be an issue any longer. The reason
given to me was that there was a shadow seen on the left one and
that it may just have been the way it was taken (such as
overlapping tissue or some such thing), but they wanted to be sure.

My heart started pounding and I was thinking "Oh no, I may have
cancer ". It does not matter how lightly the pleasant lady on the
phone put it, I was being called BACK and that could not be a
a good thing. I was told that they would take a core mammogram
of my left breast and also set up an appointment for an ultrasound
in case they determined that I needed to have that done right away
after that. No matter how much I tried to reassure myself nothing
was there because for the umpteenth time I did not feel any kind of
lump or anything unusual, the fear was right there not very far
from my thoughts for the next week.

When I arrived today I was told they were going to take a bilateral
of each breast and then two of the left again. I challenged the
technician because I was told I would only need the left one done.
I have learned to not just trust anyone wearing a white (or pink
for that matter) lab coat. Why should I subject myself to more
radiation and a higher medical bill that was obviously going to be
given to me – mistake or not? Turns out I was right and just the
left breast was doomed to being painfully squished and flattered
this time around.

Luckily I did not have to wait very long for the results when the
technician called me back in. She told me that my left upper breast
was more decent than the right one when I had my mammogram, which I
am guessing was a more dense shadow and so they wanted to take a
closer look at the left one. When they did, there was nothing
suspicious there. My thinking is the density got thinned out from
the x-ray machine grabbing just that section and smashing it as
thin as possible and nothing suspicious was found. I did not need
an ultrasound and could call the nurse later if I wanted to have
the official report (but she had heard the radiologist reading
the films and that is what he said).

Later I decided to call and got a nurse who despite was extremely
nice, was skirting my question. She was explaining how if they had
seen something I would have needed an ultrasound to explore it further,
but they did not need one. I guess she was waiting for me to say
"Well that's great news, thanks" and hang up. But I wanted to know
more than that. I asked if my left breast then showed that it was
more than than the one they took a year ago? She could not really
answer me. She just said the left had more density than the right
and so again I asked, "So it was more decent that last year's mammogram?".
Her response was "It must have been".

Well that is baloney. I have no solid proof that the radiologist
first compared this year's mammogram to the ones done a year ago (as
a diagnostic mammogram no less). For all I know just this year's
were viewed and since the left did not match the right one in density,
another one was ordered.

Do not get me wrong. I am completely ecstatic that I do not have
breast cancer! But I would have been happier getting a form letter
that nothing was found. Just how many other women go through
needless second mammograms on a daily basis. I'm sure some of those
turn out to be actual finds that do need to be diagnosed and treated.
But for every one that truly has something for the poor woman being
clamped down by the x-ray machine to worry about, how many more are
called back for follow up mammograms that really are not necessary.
But who cares right? Better to be safe than sorry, right?
While that is certainly true, it still causes me to ponder how
many women are needlessly subjected to the added gray hair,
stress, anxiety, radiation exposure and medical fees when they already
have enough to worry about with caring for their family, home, work and
who knows what else is on their plate! At least I can happily say I
do not have to deal with all this again for another year.