To The Editor:
October is Breast Health Awareness Month. This week, the American Cancer Society came out with new mammogram guidelines. It suggests that women wait until the age of 45 to have their first mammograms. It is also recommended that women over the age of 55 only have a mammogram every two years.
I am a mammographer. It is my job to screen mammograms. It is also my job to make that dreaded phone call to women to tell them that something was seen on their mammograms and that they need additional testing.
I disagree with these recommendations, and here’s why. In June 2014 I had a state-of-the-art 3-D mammogram with normal results. This past July I had my annual mammogram. It was abnormal, and I became one of those women who needed additional testing. I had more mammogram views and needed a biopsy. The result of the biopsy showed that I had breast cancer. I needed another surgery to take more tissue and check my lymph nodes to see if the cancer was invasive. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and will start radiation therapy in a few weeks. Luckily my breast cancer was found early and is treatable.
I do not have a strong family history of breast cancer. I am 60 years old, and if I had waited the recommended two years to have another mammogram, my breast cancer could have spread. I also know of several women under the age of 40 who have had breast cancer found on a mammogram or by self exam.
The American Cancer Society guidelines are only a recommendation. Women need to make the decision for themselves whether to have a yearly mammogram. I know I will.
Mammograms are uncomfortable, and there are anxious moments for women who need additional testing or a biopsy. But the benefits could be a lifesaver.