Why I Never Got a Mammogram

“Why I Never Got a Mammogram”, by Marie Myung-Ol Lee, The New York Times.

I HAVE never had a mammogram. I’m almost 50 — nearly a decade into the age when the screening is recommended by the American Cancer Society. I’m college educated, adequately insured. And I am the bane of my health care providers. Once, my midwife went so far as to request that I never speak of my decision in any space where other patients might hear.

This week, I was vindicated. A Canadian study, one of the largest ever done on mammograms, was published in the British Medical Journal. The study found that mammograms did not reduce breast cancer deaths in women around my age compared to physical exams, and that one in five women screened was overdiagnosed, possibly leading to unnecessary surgery or radiation. It seems astonishing, but it reinforced what smaller studies had told me, as someone with no family history of breast cancer: that getting a mammogram was unlikely to affect my chances of dying from the disease. What it would do is increase the probability of my mistakenly becoming a breast-cancer patient.

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