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Mammogram test. Can it cause cancer?

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by Mincepies, Feb 18, 2012.

  1. I have been offered a mammogram as part of an intiative in the area to extend them to under 50s. I am part of a random group being offered it, but I am just not sure. Has anybody heard evidence that mammograms which squash the breasts and zap them with radiation can cause cancer?
    It sounds like a good offer, but I can't decide as I don't like the idea of it, but it could find something early? I had also heard something about people who have had unnecessary chemo and surgery following mammograms.
    My dilemma - any advice?
  2. kittylion

    kittylion Senior commenter

    I have never heard of them causing cancer - where did you get that idea from?

    I have had several mammograms with no ill effects.
  3. mandala1

    mandala1 Occasional commenter

    Of course there's a risk. But - as I understand - the risk of developing breast cancer far outweighs the risk from a mammogram.
  4. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter

    I think this is a good preventative measure but not sure why and how they decide on the age to do this at. I had my 1st mamogram a few months after turning 50 and felt a bit like I did after baby no. 1 who was a section birth and no-one had told me anything about C-Sections so it was such a shock. Read up about what is involved, think of it as being a positive thing and be assured that the nurses carrying out the proceedure are very lovely. It hurts, but deep breathing helps and it is a shorter proceedure than having a smear, and it's not so embarrassing!
    Did you know that sleeping with your husband/partner creates a natural radiation and if you live in Aberdeen, where so many of the buildings are built of granite, the radiaition off them can be considerable but not dangerous? My dad and husband both work in the nuclear industry and reassure me that X-rays, mamograms and such like are safe.
    Hope that helps a wee bit?
    Joni x
  5. I was a radiographer who performed mammography before my career in education. There have been numerous trials screening women 40+. The risks are low compared to the non detection of a possible cancer. The compression is for a very short time - literally 10-20 seconds and there are things a lot worse such as smear tests! People worry about x-rays however you receive the same amount of radiation flying to Paris as you do from having a chest x -ray. Would you consider not flying because of the radiation risk? Hope this helps to reassure you.
  6. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    Yes, there is a risk, if a very small one. Also you are risking having unnecessary treatment if a cancer is detected that would never have developed (whcih of course you can't know). Recent studies showed that virtually all the improvements in breast cancer survival are down to better treatment rather than screening. Most breast cancers are still found by the women herself. The chances of getting breast cancer are very small. The chance of dying from it is very small. The chance of dying from it if you have a mammogram is very small but possibly very slightly smaller than if you didn't have the mammogram, but you may also have very serious treament for no reason. You won't find these facts on the NHS leaflet. When I challenged my local screening service that their leaflet was frightening, scaremongering and out of date they were inclined to agree but said they had to use the one provided by the NHS. I doubt that, though it would be easier for them. The radio 4 Maths programme did a fascinating proper statistical analysis a few years ago. The money spent on breast screening would almost certainly save more lives is spent on something else.
  7. My best friend would not be alive today had she not bothered with a mammogram. The cancer was found very early and couldn't be felt. It was a grade 3 and very aggressive she needed chemo, radio and operation. Thank god she went for routine screening. By the time it would have been felt it probably would have spread.
    It is easy to quote research and statistics and how survival rates are down to treatment not screening etc but when it is someone you know and love who has survived because of screeening then the research goes out of the window.
  8. Thanks all,
    Was not scaremongering in any way. Thanks for thought and advice. Will prob go for it, but have researched a bit more and will try not to panic if recalled.
  9. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    But if the money had been spent differently more people's lives might have been saved. It's not a bit easy to quote research and statistics because people would rather live by anecdote and their own tiny experience rather than what is actually true. The money wasted on breast screening will carry on being wasted because politically no government would dare stop it. Meanwhile lots of people die of other things whose lives could be saved if there was the money for it.
  10. Well you could say that about many things. If the money spent on treating people who smoke was spent differently lots of other lives may be saved. If we increased the age of alcohol consumption just think of all the lives that could be saved by having to treat drunken teenagers and the violent behaviour it can cause. Think of all the money spent on old people...why not let them die! The money could be so better spent. My 80 old dad who was terminally ill must have cost the NHS a fortune....why bother? The money could have been so better spent. I could go on! I think the argument is ridiculous to be honest. If you don't want one then don't have one but I think it is worth it. If there was conclusive evidence to suggest it caused more harm than good then the government would not dare carry it on. Show me the evidence or research that says it does not save lives.
    What if it was your life that had been saved by a mammogram? or your mum's life. Would you still think like that? I am aware I am using my tiny experience in the grand scheme of things but when you have that experience it is impossible to say it isn't worth it. Any life saved is surely worth it. And lives are saved and that is a fact. I made the decision for myself that it was worth going to the screening just as you have to make the decision for yourself.
  11. Ruthie66

    Ruthie66 New commenter

    And this is why there are trials into the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatments. If it was left to any of us we would say my mum/dad/child/granny should have whatever treatment that would save/prolong their lives but the reality is that there isn't a bottomless pit of money and decisions have to be made on how to spend resources.
  12. I am well aware of that but until the day that research shows enough evidence for the withdrawal of screening I for one will go for it because I<u> know</u> that it helps to detect early cancers, cancers that can kill you and that can be treated if caught so early.
  13. I can't believe that women are not taking up the offer of a mammogram, certainly if the worry is pain or indeed risk of causing cancer. How many of you have refused an Xray at the dentist, an X ray for your possibly broken limb? If due to cost how many of you have not had your smear test?
    I accepted my mammorgam whan I was 50 as did most of my friends. Two of them tootled along, concerned a bit as to whether it would hurt and both were told they had a malignant lump that they couldn't feel, not even when it was pointed out to them. Neither needed chemotherapy but both had radiotherapy, and 'touch wood' are fine.
    It's your choice but please don't let the worry about it hurting put you off!!
  14. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    I had one done in 2010 because I felt a lump. I have fairly big boobs but TBH the squeezing and squashing was fleetingly uncomfortable rather than painful. I also had ultrasound and I was lucky as my lump turmed out to be a cyst. It comes and goes from time to time, and I have called it 'Sid the cyst'.
    However, being told I had perfectly healthy breasts and no sign of anything more sinsiter was such a relief. On leaving hospital I burst into tears with the relief.
    I shall attend regular mammograms from now on (being of that age [​IMG]).
  15. casper

    casper New commenter

    Had breast cancer and was not old enough for a mammogram so, anything to prevent this or catch it early can only be a good thing. Been through treatment and I am fine. I now have these every year to check that I am ok,
  16. I had one years ago after my mother had an advanced stage sarcomna cancer whch killed her..She had had breast cancer three times previously which came back in the womb.
    I found the mammogram v. v. painful - they squeeze the breast to the size of a pancake! Excrutiating would be the word I would use.
    I was 37 at the time. But other women I know have found it less painful and it can be a lifesaver.
    I have read about the poss. side effects of this and that it may cause cancer through the radiation dose, but I think you need to research this on the net or ask your GP. I do not know what the dose is, but imagine that they would not do this if it were not safe.
    Maybe ask this question on an alternative/ holistic medical forum too?
  17. I am sorry to hear it was so painful for you. I had one just over 2 weeks ago and it really didn't hurt at all. I do suffer from painful sore breasts around the time of my period and I honestly think I would postpone it if I was at the sore stage with my breasts. I can understand why it might hurt some people. It was fleetingly uncomfortable. I liked it to the sort of discomfort you have when your blood pressure is checked.
  18. mandala1

    mandala1 Occasional commenter

    ..... are we not trying to support each other to cope with this undignified but necessary procedure? I've had a few mammograms - yes they were uncomfortable but really not painful. If I'd read the previous post before I'd had one I'd've been terrified.
  19. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    I agree. The joke post, though well-meant, was hardly reassuring.

    As far as the OP's point about squashing is concerned, You really shouldn't worry. Think good energetic sex and you'll remember that a whole lot of squashing goes on with never a thought of its possible ill effects.
    We're all fearful of bad news when it comes to mammograms. This makes the procedure seem worse than it actually is.
  20. Received the invitation for my second mammogram yesterday, I will definitely be attending.

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