The new mammogram guidelines have just come out this week, and the new guidelines call for annual mammogram screening starting at age 50, instead of 40, as in the present guidelines. The new guidelines also call for women to cease self-breast examinations as well. Not surprisingly then, these guidelines are causing major uproar among women and breast health providers, as many feel that these guidelines will do NOTHING to prevent or decrease death from breast cancer, but may INCREASE the number of deaths from breast cancer, due to late detection.
It is a known fact that breast cancer, when caught early is highly 'curable.' I put 'curable' in quotes because the treatments which we have for breast cancer are not really cures, but treatments and procedures to remove malignancy. The later the diagnosis for breast cancer, the poorer the prognosis, and the increase risk of death by breast cancer. As a physical therapist, I have worked with many patients with breast cancer, and I have even had opportunity to work with post-mastectomy patients in order to heal them of post-mastectomy lymphedema. I have also worked with women who had suffered from breast contusions/swellings of traumatic origin. I have found that the longer one waits to make a diagnosis and start treatment, the greater the level of medical involvement that is needed to cure the breast cancer. While a simple lump can be handled by a lumpectomy, more larger lumps may need mastectomy, in addition to radiation/chemotherapy. If the cancer metastasizes, then the patient will need extensive chemotherapy. Needing extensive chemotherapy suggests a very bad prognosis, and many breast cancer patients with metastatic lesions die, in spite of chemotherapy. When you think of the increased medical costs and loss of life associated with late detection and treatment of breast cancer, it just does not make any sense why the government would endorse a program that would promote late detection. Below are my ideas about the new guidelines
Eliminate Monthly Breast Exams: I wholeheartedly agree with this one. Monthly breast exams in my estimation are useless, and should be eliminated, however I do not endorse the view that breast exams should not be done at all! Women instead should do daily breast self-caresses. The breast represents that part of the woman concerned with nurturing. The breasts were made to nurture a baby. It says in Psalm 22:9, "thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts." The breasts were also made to be nurtured by your spouse as well!
"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love" (Proverbs 5:18-19).
Loving caresses of your breasts by your spouse will go a long way towards detection than any random, once-a-month self-exam. For the pre-menopausal woman, breast tissues change throughout the month. Sometimes your breast is more lumpy and more tender than usual. That's normal! For you to know when a lump is unusual, you have to know your breast! Practice daily self caresses to your breasts, and as an added bonus, let your spouse know your breasts too, in a loving way. He too can be your ally in keeping your breasts healthy for your good health, and his pleasure!
Mammograms after 50 instead of 40: In this I have no expertise. Maybe there is something to women getting too much radiation exposure, however, if a woman under 50 finds an unusual lump in her breast, then mammograms are great for diagnosis! The key however is to know your breasts! I am a woman over 40, and it has been 2 years since my last mammogram. My first mammogram caused a lot of anxiety for me because they found an unusual spot in one of my breasts. I was then subjected to a breast ultrasound, and then told to 'watch it.' I then went for a follow-up the next year, and that spot had disappeared! Miracle of God, or false postive? I do not know, but one thing I do know, it is important to know your breasts!
I pray that each and every woman becomes more active in their health and in knowing their body, and for heaven's sake, Get to know your breasts!