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Digital Mammography and risk of cancer

Hi, I am 43 and wonder about the possibility of the radiation in scans doing more harm than good.
7 Responses
1081992 tn?1389907237
Hi, there's been a lot of debate about that over the past years. Besides the radiation risk, there's also the risk of getting a 'false positive' which says there is a cancer spot when there really isn't -- which leads to more scans, and biopsies and possibly  even surgery, and lots of needless anxiety.

There are recommendations from top medical organizations, but they disagree. Here's a U.S. summary:


Let's say you a have average risk (e.g., no family history); and so with being under 45, you can read across the very top row. It's kind of a tossup.

Here's Canada:

"For women aged 40–49 we recommend *not routinely screening*" --- and they give the reasons.

"...suggests that women between 40 and 44 years old, who are not at high risk of breast cancer and do not have symptoms, should not have mammography screening."

1081992 tn?1389907237
For actual numbers, here is one particular study:

"On average, annual screening of 100,000 women aged 40 to 74 years was projected to induce 125 breast cancers... leading to 16 deaths...  relative to 968 breast cancer deaths averted by early detection from screening."

However, that's an overall guess based on averages. To zero in more:

"Women exposed at the 95th percentile were projected to develop 246 radiation-induced breast cancers leading to 32 deaths per 100,000 women. Women with large breasts requiring extra views for complete breast examination (8% of population) were projected to have higher radiation-induced breast cancer incidence and mortality (266 cancers, 35 deaths per 100,000 women), compared to women with small or average breasts (113 cancers, 15 deaths per 100,000 women)."

And then about age:

"Biennial screening starting at age 50 reduced risk of radiation-induced cancers 5-fold."

Avatar universal
I have already had 3 mammos am I at risk?
Avatar universal
I have already had 3 mammos am I at risk?
1081992 tn?1389907237
"I have already had 3 mammos am I at risk? "

Every scan with radiation brings some risk. Even flying in a plane at high altitude brings more risk than staying at ground level.

It's a shame that there isn't solid, uniform advice to be given by the medical establishment. There are two different sides.

Didn't your doc explain the pros and cons of getting the scans?
No and I am panicking right now
1081992 tn?1389907237
"No and I am panicking right now "

No reason to panic. The amount of radiation from each mammogram is fairly small. The radiation from the digital kind should even be less than from the old fashioned kind. By comparison, an average CT scan has much more radiation.

If we look at the average figures for the digital mammogram: "annual screening of 100,000 women aged 40 to 74 years was projected to induce 125 breast cancers"?  Then that's just 1/8 of one percent.
Thank you . I hate scans and try to have as few as possible
1081992 tn?1389907237
"Thank you . I hate scans and try to have as few as possible"
Yep, I'd say that's being smart. The experts are more and more starting to agree with you :)

Btw, the choice can also be every two years instead of every single year. Good luck with whatever you choose.

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