Mammograms do not save lives. Usually.

boobs on a naked lady**

While I am being heretical (see below), why not wade into the mine-field that is women’s* healthcare? Mostly because it is not so much a treatment area as an ideological steel pipe used for whacking people senseless if they don’t toe the line.

Recently the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that healthy men with no family history of cancer cease getting the PSA test. The test, which was initially praised as revolutionizing prostate cancer screening, has been revealed to add no benefit to survival rates. At the same time it caused a lot of over-treatment and awful side-effects from the treatment (incontinence, for instance). Most men who tested positive via the PSA test, if they had cancer, would die from something else long before the extremely slow-going cells ever metastasized. Rarely, some people even died from treatment the received as a result of a PSA test.

This didn’t make much news – nobody seems to care THAT much about men’s healthcare. Especially men themselves – have you tried to take one to the doctor lately? They kick and pinch and scream. I digress.

A similar change in strategy was recommended to women some years ago, regarding mammograms. This kicked up a great fuss. Many women who had cancer discovered via mammography are convinced it saved their lives. And understandably so. But for between 87%-97% of women who found their cancer via mammogram, the screening did nothing for them.

And for the vast majority of women who never develop breast cancer, mammograms bring the same drawbacks the PSA test has. Over-treatment. Needless anxiety. False positives. Even some increased cancer risk.

This really gets the goat of organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which make pushing mammograms their bread and butter. In spite of their name, most money raised for SGK does not go to finding a cure. It’s spent on providing screening and “awareness.”

Just something to keep in mind when October comes and the pink stuff comes out.

*actually when I say women’s healthcare I’m simplifying. Men get breast cancer and die from it, too. But again, nobody cares about men. SGK certainly wasn’t thinking about men when they picked freaking PINK as THE color. Nope.
**this piece is actually titled Portrait of a Nude Woman by Rafaellino del Colle. Pretty close to title I chose.


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