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Another Look at Thyroid Shields and Mammograms

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having another look at women, mammograms and thyroid shields iStockphoto/Thinkstock

In a recent conversation I had with an Ob/Gyn, she mentioned her belief in the necessity of having a thyroid shield when getting a mammogram. I made a mental note of it, and decided it was worthy of further assessment. When I went for my test, I mentioned it to the technician.

A doctor came in to explain that it wasn’t necessary — but that was the extent of her feedback. As a strong supporter of patient advocacy, I decided the topic needed some further investigation. Little did I know that Dr. Mehmet Oz had started a brouhaha on this subject in 2010.

After numerous interviews, I learned why thyroid shields were not necessary. In fact, they were considered a detriment to the mammogram process. I came out with a very different perspective than I had going in.

I spoke by telephone with Dr. Debra Monticciolo, the Chair of the Commission on Quality and Safety at the American College of Radiology and the President of the Society of Breast Imaging. Straight off, she told me emphatically that a shield impedes a good mammogram.

She said, “Use of a thyroid shield in not recommended.  It can interfere with a high quality mammogram by getting in the way of positioning, interfering with compression (which is needed for a good exam), and sometimes the shield itself covers breast tissue that we need to see.”

I questioned her as to whether there were any other hidden issues that might influence her position.

She responded, “Radiologists want to find cancers at their earliest possible stage.  We want to help our patients and we know that mammography saves lives.  The thyroid shield is not only unnecessary, but can prevent a woman from getting a good mammogram.”

Monticciolo added that her whole career was devoted to decreasing the effects of cancer.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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