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When Mammograms Lie

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A new study finds that mammograms are inaccurately read one out of five times.


If you get a clean mammogram, you're in the clear, right? Not always, according to a recent study. Reuters reports that, on average, 21 percent of breast cancers were missed by radiologists, and 4.3 percent of women underwent a biopsy even though they didn't have breast cancer.

Diana Miglioretti, a researcher at the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle who led the study, told Reuters that women might want to consider scheduling diagnostic exams at centers with breast imaging experts. "It might be worth driving the extra hour to find one," she said. (Just ask the receptionist if there's a breast imaging expert on staff.) Some hospitals, such as Massachusetts General, even have breast imaging divisions. The MGH Breast Imaging Division was among the first to recognize the importance of having a radiologist who is expert in breast evaluation supervise and interpret all imaging tests that involve breast evaluation.

We called Cathy Bueti, who was diagnosed at age 31 with breast cancer, for her perspective. She's an occupational therapist and author of Breastless in the City: A Young Woman's Story of Love, Loss, and Breast Cancer. Here are her suggestions for breast cancer prevention:

Trust your intuition: "Younger women have denser breast tissue, and that can make the cancer harder to detect," she says. If you feel something isn't right, even after a clean scan, trust your gut and get a second opinion.
Be your own advocate: "Many times, doctors will tell women in their 20s and 30s that they're 'too young to have breast cancer,'" she explains. "Even if you have a lump, they might tell you to watch it for six months before they'll send you for a mammogram." Don't take no for an answer.
Consult an expert: "When in doubt, see a breast care specialist," Bueti concludes.

next: Reality Moms Behaving Badly
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
george October 22, 2008, 8:48 PM
Kelly October 23, 2008, 12:03 AM
emmett October 23, 2008, 3:21 AM
george October 23, 2008, 6:36 AM
kid October 23, 2008, 9:54 AM
marty October 23, 2008, 1:13 PM

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