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Just to continue the derail about mammography, but radiation exposure WAS a concern of the USPSTF. It is true, digital technology and progress in general has decreased the amount of radiation in an individual mammogram. UpToDate says that one mammogram contains the amount of radiation a typical person would get in three months of background radiation. So, the individual dose of one is not that significant in the grand scheme of things. However, repeated doses make a difference, and it makes a difference if they are started a decade earlier. Especially if it is a poor tool for premenopausal, dense breasts, and repeat mammograms will be ordered, along with those unnecessary biopsies. Cumulative exposure is the key. Which would be the key for airport full body scanners, too. (OK, I know this post isn't about mammograms, but since I already admitted this was a derail, and I am only answering a previous comment...) Also, the reason the USPSTF changed its recommendation on mammograms had little to do with simple anxiety. Mammograms are a poor screening tool for women from age 40 to 50. They will get MORE biopsies because of this, and no less mastectomies. Mammograms do not prevent cancer, at all. They are simply an imperfect visualization tool. Reputable experts think repeated mammograms, especially on women with dense breasts who start early and then live a long time, may actually cause more cancers than they diagnose in that particular group of younger, low risk women. I am not against mammograms as a screening tool in appropriate populations that it is effective for. If you are high risk, go for it. If you are over 50, go for it. This is not about simple anxiety or "the government" not wanting to cover the cost of "your life", at all (Cost was not even considered, and it's an independent organization, not the government. And, mammograms in this age group did not save significant lives. Here is a great article by an ob/gyn on the subject, and here is one I wrote about it, and why people in public health and oncologists are supporting the new recs). More procedures is not always better. At the doctor or at the airport. OK, off my soapbox.
Thanks for this post. My sentiments exactly.
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Nov 29, 2009