I always thought I'd have mammograms, it's a common cancer after all. (although be careful of the 1 in 8 statistic, that applies to a woman in old age, the risk goes up with age, a middle aged woman - it's 1 in 68 (roughly) and women under 30...very uncommon.
I did some research first and discovered I hadn't received the full story in my screening brochure. I'd urge all women to be very careful with breast screening, it has risks - false positives, over-diagnosis and there is even concern about the health risks of radiation exposure and compressing breast tissue. I don't agree with a recommendation to screen without also giving women risk information and a proper overview of the test - the real and not inflated benefits.
The Nordic Cochrane Institute were so concerned at the lack of risk information being given to women and the lack of informed consent, that they produced their own summary, "The risks and benefits of mammograms" - it's at their website. The NCI have criticized the BreastScreen brochures from several countries, including Australia.
I hope our brochure has been improved...but I think all women should be given the NCI paper.
Gilbert Welch and Professor Michael Baum have also had lots to say about the risks of breast screening, google their articles. Gilbert Welch is about to release a new book called, "Over-diagnosis" in Jan 11 which covers mammograms.
I then thought about clinical breast exams, but found no evidence of benefit, they just cause biopsies.
Breast self-exams do the same thing.
I've decided to be "breast aware" - just taking note of the look and shape of my breasts in the mirror every morning after showering.
I believe women should do their own research before agreeing to cancer screening tests, for some reason we rarely get a balanced assessment of the test - we get scant information, skewed/misleading figures (1 in 8 figure) and an order or recommendation to screen.
I don't believe that is an appropriate way to treat adults, women are quite capable of assessing the pros and cons and making their own decisions and that decision, to screen or not to screen, must be respected...too often our concerns are dismissed or ridiculed and that is unacceptable and disrespectful. Men often opt out of prostate screening, women are equally entitled to opt out of breast or any other sort of cancer screening.