03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Perils Of Unnecessary Mammography And Why You Should Always Ask Why

In response to the following, released this week by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Read This Before You Have A Mammogram

My female friends were emailing in outrage at the notion that we may have, once again, been roused by the health care magnates in this country into receiving unnecessary and potentially destructive procedures, diagnoses and treatments. According to the Center for Medical Consumers article, widespread propoganda that mammography and screening 'save lives', there seems to be evidence that over-screening may have widespread negative effects on largenumbers of women. "Based on the findings from seven clinical trials, Jorgensen and Gotzsche describe the cost to women in terms of unnecessary treatment. For every 1000 women who undergo mammography screening for 10 years, they report, one woman will have her life prolonged; five additional women will receive an unnecessary cancer diagnosis and treatment; and three women will have a benign tumor biopsied."

With all of the conflicting information out there, it's no wonder my friends' responses and inquiries vacillated from outraged at having been subjected to unecessary treatments, biopsies and expense to angry that some women who should have screenings may not with the information released in these studies. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but the least we can hope for is that every woman, by the age of sexual maturity will understand how to conduct a breast sellf-exam; that doctors will be more sensitive to the individual needs of patients rather than blanketing the market with absolute advice based in an industry-wide practice of profiteering on patients at every opportunity; that the truth will emerge in more responsible, less fear driven reporting; and that those of us who prefer not to be over screened won't be strong armed into doing so.

All the mammograms and screenings in the world did nothing to save the life of my 27-year-old cousin who died an untimely death from breast cancer earlier this year. I can't imagine that they made any difference to this woman afflicted and passing out of this world just a couple months after her own mother perished of the same. Both had recieved regular medical care and screenings. Neither lived to tell about it, but I think they would side with another aunt and friend who had their breasts sliced and diced to remove what turned out to be benign tumors when they balk at advocating rigorous mammograms accross the board. This really goes back to Caveat Emptor, or buyer beware, when you're consuming health care that's for sale at too-high a price; and to the shameful fact that women, too often, are the ones most preyed upon in terms of propogandized procedures without real merit.

For those of you looking to consume more balanced information about breast cancer, please see one of the consumer advocacy based organizations without as much of an economic interest in skewing facts, check out: The National Breast Cancer Coalition (, Breast Cancer Action ( and the Center for Medical Consumers ( Here's to the maximum level of health for all women, and to learning to trust our instincts when it comes to our own bodies. Awareness is not necessarily just reading the news.