First of all, the American Cancer Society stands by its recommendation, so hopefully that will quell a lot of fears. Best case (and hopefully most likely) scenario: nothing changes despite this panel's recommendations.
Worst case scenario: The ACS listens to these fools and changes its guidelines.
I'm in no position to be affected by these new recommendations, as my double mastectomy with reconstruction exempts me from mammograms. However, I can tell you what I might hypothetically have done if I were in my 40s, a candidate for mammograms, and found out I could no longer get routine mammograms every year.
Hypothetically speaking, that is.
-- Tell my doctor that my mother and/or sister had breast cancer. (Yes, lie)
-- Tell my doctor that I found something in my breast and need it checked out. (Yes, lie)
Then again, I might not. I'm not advising you to lie, you see. I'm just throwing ideas out there -- brainstorming, if you will.
Finally, I will end this blog with a letter to the task force that recommended all this no-routine-mammograms-until-50-and-no-breast-self-exam nonsense in the first place.
Dear Task Force:
You don't want women to get routine mammograms in their 40s because they cost money and medical effort. The amount of radiation women receive during a mammogram is minimal. Truth is, you don't want women to get "needless" biopsies because, well, it's a whole lotta trouble (and $$) to do a biopsy.
By the way, isn't "needless biopsy" an oxymoron? Isn't a biopsy necessary to assess whether there's a malignancy? If a suspicious growth were benign, isn't it good that a biopsy was done to convey that information? If the growth in question were malignant, isn't it good that a biopsy was conducted?
You don't want women to do breast self exams because they may choose to get those needless biopsies and choose those needless mammograms, which cost money. And some medical experts even claim that some cancers will never be deadly, but they are benign malignancies.
If you or a loved one found a lump in the breast, would you take comfort in that whole "benign malignancy" hoopla and do nothing? Or would you want a biopsy? Would you want to know whether that lump was cancerous and, if proven to be malignant, would you just leave it in your breast and carry on with your life?
Finally, I don't see any guidelines changing for men any time soon. If your panel thinks women should forfeit their right to routine annual mammograms in their 40s, then the panel should level the playing field and tell men to wait until they are 80 to get a routine prostate exam.
Beth L. Gainer
She can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.