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50 Years Old and Never Been Mammogrammed...What to do if a friend won't go in for her mammogram?

By Expert HERWriter June 9, 2009 - 9:36pm
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Hello everyone,

I think it's pretty safe to say that the vast majority of us know the importance of getting a yearly mammogram once we turn 40. I know I sure do. Even though mine have been pretty painful in years past I schedule mine religiously every year and go in and do it, because it is so important to be proactive about my health.

But what do you do if you have a girlfriend who is way over 40 and she just won't get one?

This is the situation that is going on with a friend of a friend. While my friend is really good about going in every year at the same time for her mammogram, she has a friend who is now 50 years old and she's never had one. Never. She's tried gently talking to her and suggesting it but her friend just won't do it. She replies with "Oh I know, I'll do it someday" but then never follows up.

This frustrates my friend because she once lost a former boss to breast cancer, and she learned after her former boss' death that she also never bothered to schedule a mammogram until she was maybe in her 60s. So when she finally went in it was too late.

Do any of you also have friends who are over 40 and yet never had a mammogram? What do you think we can try doing, if anything, to get them to get in and get it done already? I know my friend understands her friend's fears or nervousness about doing it, but she also wants to just pick up the phone and schedule it for her. How can we help encourage our friends to take care of their bodies without pushing them away? Thank you so much for your help with this! I know you'll all have some great thoughts and ideas that I can pass along. Michelle

Add a Comment21 Comments

I think your friend is quite entitled to make her own decisions about screening. Screening is not black and white - some people will choose screening and some won't - it is never right or wrong to screen.
We need to move away from bullying women to simply "do as they're told"...we're adults and quite capable of making our own informed decisions.
I believe informed consent is totally lacking in cervical and breast cancer screening even though it is a legal requirement for ALL cancer screening. (not just tests for men - didn't risk information for prostate screening come out quickly and doctors were advised to obtain informed consent?)
Sadly, women are still waiting....
Instead women get half the story and a scary or misleading story at that...
I doubt many women are giving informed consent for screening tests at the moment.
Pap smears - oversold to women and over-screening exposes you to risk for no additional benefit.
In the UK we're receiving the information that should have been released many years ago.
FACT: 1000 women need regular screening for 35 years to save ONE woman from cervical cancer. (Dr Angela Raffle - published in the BMJ)
This cancer would affect around 1% of women in an un-screened world.
Over-screening which is basically annual or biannual screening and testing women under 25 and even 30 causes harmful over-treatment. (and testing women not yet sexually active is irresponsible screening)
LEEP and cone biopsies carry risks...damage to the cervix leading to infertility, problems during pregnancy, miscarriages, pre-term delivery, more c-sections and premature babies.
When 99.35% (99% no benefit and 0.35% false negative)
of women derive no benefit from smears, why is there no informed consent? This is respected for men even though prostate cancer affects 200,000 men every year in the States and cervical 10,500.
I don't believe this test was ever suitable for mass screening and doctors knew screening for an uncommon cancer with an unreliable test was a long shot - 80% of women MUST screen to bring down the already small death toll to justify the money spent on screening programs.
In the UK, Australia and the UK doctors are paid to reach targets for cervical screening - an uncommon cancer - no targets apply for breast and prostate cancer screening. (FAR more common cancers)
I think many women would be appalled to find out the facts behind this testing.
As a low risk woman I have always declined screening.
I have also declined mammograms after researching the topic - that was more difficult as breast cancer is common. The Nordic Cochrane Institute paper, "The risks and benefits of mammograms" helped me.
(available online) and papers by Prof Michael Baum.
I have never permitted clinical breast exams either - there is no evidence they help at all, but they increase the risk of biopsies and some research suggests biopsies are a risk factor for cancer.
Also, the routine pelvic exams pushed at American and Canadian women are not evidence based - they are of low/poor clinical value and expose you to the risk of false positives and more diagnostic testing even surgery. Having a gyn as your primary physician is a very bad idea - you have the highest hysterectomy rates in the world - a horrifying 600,000 every year!
There are many articles in medical journals re routine pelvic exams and their true value (poor) and risks. (Heather Dixon)
The only exam required for the initiation and safe use of the Pill is the taking of a medical history and a blood pressure test.
I know many women suffer these exams and tests thinking they're doing the right and responsible thing...when in fact, the reverse is likely to be true.
Dr Joel Sherman's Medical Privacy under women's privacy issues has lots of great references - my stats come from Dr Richard DeMay's article (American pathologist), "Should we abandon pap smear testing" (available online) and articles by Dr Angela Raffle, Professor Michael Baum (UK breast cancer surgeon) and others.

May 20, 2010 - 6:33am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing this information. There is another website I found shows that physical activity can reduce your chances for breast cancer among several other ailments. You can find the website here from the Healthful Life Project http://healthfullife.umdnj.edu/archives/risk_exercise_archive.htm.

Mammograms are still very important though. So along with exercise, keep getting tested.

August 15, 2009 - 8:31am
EmpowHER Guest

I read in an article that "Walking as little as 30 minutes a day, especially after age 50 – even in the course of doing household-related chores – can significantly reduce a woman’s risk of contracting breast cancer".Exercise is a good medicine for most of the ailments.But researchers do say that using breast MRI along with mammography is highly accurate in detecting tumors.Know more in the following link,

August 11, 2009 - 2:44am
EmpowHER Guest

Mammograms expose you to only about 18 millirems of radiation per exam, which is approximately equivalent to natural environment radiation exposure we all receive over two days.The myth about mammogram causing cancer is probably the most dangerous because it discourages women from checking for early, treatable signs of cancer instead of waiting for the disease to spread and get complicated.To know more informations on the related post,visit the following link,
Thanks for sharing.

August 11, 2009 - 12:47am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

The most important mammgraphy risk is not that the radiation causes cancer - it's overdiagnosis and overtreatment of lesions that would never have caused any harm if left alone. It's clear that many of these lesions actually disappear on their own if left alone, but they are all treated like full-blown cancer. Please see a study in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) at http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/jul09_1/b258 for more info. Yes, women lose their breasts and health because they had harmless lesions all the time. Women who are screened via mammography are actually much more likely to lose their breasts than their non-screened sisters, despite what we have been told.

We should all be able to opt for screening mammo if we want, but we should receive accurate information about both the benefits and risks. In the US, no one ever hears about overdiagnosis unless they do a lot of research. It's time we get all the facts!

August 12, 2009 - 5:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

The URL above is not correct - it's actually http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/339/jul09_1/b2587

August 12, 2009 - 5:36pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent article on the big problem with screening mammography - which is overdiagnosis. Please see http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-breast-overdiagnosis17-2009aug17,0,5184447.story for a discussion that can be easily understood by people who aren't health professionals. Cheers!

August 15, 2009 - 7:40am
Expert HERWriter

There is another organization which is talking about the same thing. They do not think mammograms are good for detection. They think they cause more harm then good in most cases. I'm not sure I agree with that but I'm not a doctor and would like to learn more before making such broad statements. This org is a non profit here in the US. Someone was just telling me about them. I will find out the name of the organization and post it asap. I know they would like for EmpowHer to partner with them. Their take is very similar to anon who posted http://www.screening.dk/folder_uk.pdf. I was fascinated by the statistics they were throwing out. I'll post their information as soon as I reach my friend.

August 2, 2009 - 2:37pm
EmpowHER Guest

Oh sorry..I am not the annon. who originally posted this article link. I was just referencing it as I am also interested. Would love to know more too...LOL

August 2, 2009 - 1:58pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Ok--thanks! I'm not sure which anon I'm talking to here, either! There is more discussion at this page: Risks for Mammograms?

August 2, 2009 - 2:03pm
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