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A Mammogram-Free Lifestyle
Cancer was hardly a word in my vocabulary until I came to work for 4Women.com. While I haven’t paid much attention to cancer, as an adult I have always focused attention on environmental carcinogens and other toxins and have done my best to minimize my exposure. That’s me now, but I grew up eating my breakfast seated at a table between two chain-smokers, eating plenty of McDonalds food-like creations, and bathing in, breathing, and absorbing multiple carcinogenic chemicals, especially via all that Lake Michigan salmon we were eating at the height of PCB contamination of the Great Lakes. So it’s a toss. Is my body and future health a picture of my past or current lifestyle?
Surely if I felt marked by my carcinogenic past (and present as there’s no avoiding carcinogens on this poisoned Planet), I’d be requesting monthly mammograms. This year’s annual gyno exam was my first as a 40-yr-old, and I declined what could’ve/would’ve been my first mammogram.
I know. I know. The radiation exposure is minimal, not enough to worry about. That’s what you were told, and that’s what you repeat. I’ve heard it a zillion times, but I don’t buy it. a) There is NO safe level of radiation exposure. b) You’re expecting me to have mammograms every year, on top of all the dental exams I’ve had over my years, on top of all the x-rays I had over the course of 5 broken bones as the risk-taking youth I was - oh, but you didn’t ask about any of that before you proclaimed mammogram radiation levels safe. You seem not to know that radiation exposure is cumulative. You seem to think it’s only the radiation dose of a single exposure that matters, as if the slate is wiped clean and we go back to zero in time for next year’s dose. I know better. I reject your cost/benefit ratio.
Does that mean I do not want to be proactive with regard to screening myself for breast cancer? No! I just don’t want to raise my risk of cancer in the name of finding the cancer. I want safe breast cancer screening alternatives and I’d prefer that all the money going into curing cancer was instead directed towards preventing cancer. The fact that the FDA and other doctors cried out when Dr. Mercola made a positive statement about the use of breast themography for monitoring breast health was not lost on me. Someone’s profits were in jeopardy.
So while the news buzzes about mammogram rates going down since last year’s new Task Force mammogram recommendations, I’m feeling like less of an outlier, even if my reasoning remains on the outskirts.
Michelle Young, 4Women.com, Research and Communications Director