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Understanding mammograms in seniors and all women

  Mammography’s Limits, Seldom Understood

By PAULA SPAN
  While this nyt blog article raises questions about how useful a mammogram is for seniors I wanted to point out some issues many women and doctors might consider.  First, a mammogram does not find cancer!  Yep I bet you did not know that.  Only a biopsy finds cancer.  A mammogram only tells you where to biopsy.  That sounds like a minor distinction but in fact if you don’t biopsy a lot you lose much of the screening benefit of a mammogram.  That is essential to tell women and doctors both of whom might be happy waiting and not doing those biopsies.  Women might say well I would rather not have a biopsy why don’t I wait and the doctor would also agree sure why don’t you wait.  In fact, if you want the benefits of the mammogram you need to get the biopsy now! Second, many people mistakenly say I felt a lump now I need a mammogram.  That is not true and by allowing that to be the first answer misleads people to the correct answer which is you have a mass / lump anything you feel you need a biopsy.  You don’t need a mammogram to tell you where to biopsy you can feel where.  I am always aware of cover up stories like the doctor who would correctly say, yea I knew that the mammogram was to look for more spots to biopsy and to look for places to biopsy in the other breast.  If that is true great but if you were not thinking of a biopsy and did not really understand how a mammogram works as a prescreen in a much bigger breast cancer screening program you might get mislead.  I hope this helps all to better understand how to benefit from breast cancer screening. Like if you felt this was new and help full.   Dr Shawn McGivney

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