“Many U.S. women do not get recommended mammograms.”
That Reuters headling and the story definitely caught my attention. “Half of the U.S. women 40 and older do not get annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer, and nearly 40 percent of women 50 and older do not get the recommended biannual screenings, even though they have insurance," reporter Julie Steenhuysen wrote.
So I shared this link with a small sample group of middle-age women, some of whom are menopausal and others who are still perimenopausal, who are my Facebook friends to find out if they were among those who resisted getting what I jokingly call “a boob smush”. My goal in holding this little on-line focus group was to learn why women wouldn’t avail themselves of this procedure.
It turns out that my friends are among the group who does get a regular mammogram. In case you’re one of those who avoids this procedure, I thought I’d share my friends’ reasoning on why they never miss this appointment – and why you shouldn’t either.
Several friends explained that their reason is tied to a family history of cancer. “I am almost religious about getting a mammogram every year,” Theresa said. “My mom had breast cancer, and one of my sisters had cervical cancer. I just think the odds might be a little higher for me. Also, my breasts have been called 'dense' (but not so much as I get older), and they're full of cysts. I can't afford NOT to.”
Judy had a similar story. “My mom died of breast cancer when she was 51 and I too have the dense/lumpy boobs that are also double-D's to boot,” she said. “I went through a phase where not only was I having to get mammograms every six months as they were ‘watching’ something on one side or the other, but had to get breast MRI's as well, which invariably had results that seemed to contradict info from the mammograms (spots in completely different places than the "being watched" area). Thankfully I’m back to the one-a-year schedule.”
For some friends, a cancer scare provided the impetus. “In my 30s, they found a suspect lump that turned out to be a cyst, but the whole start-to-finish of a lump, biopsy, etc. was creepy,” one friend explained. “So I go get squeezed.”
And for some friends, their decision was based on the scary reality of already being diagnosed with cancer. “Being a 9-year cancer survivor, an annual mammogram is a simple thing to do,” Kathy said. “Even more so is the annual check-up. Once you've had cancer, every little bump, lump and itchy patch becomes worrisome. The mammogram did not detect my cancer, so having another set of trained eyes checking me over is a small price to pay for peace of mind.”
Many of my friends also maintain a regular self-care routine in relation to their breasts. “I also do bi-weekly self exams to make sure that nothing pops up that should not be there,” Michelle said. “I know too many folk that have breast cancer and, like Kathy said, were not found by the mammo, but rather themselves through self exams or their spouse.”