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November 19th, 2009
09:08 AM ET

Dr. Gupta answers your mammogram questions

The new guidelines on breast cancer screenings have left a lot of women upset and confused. But what do they really mean for you? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers your questions.

Filed under: Dr. Gupta's Mailbag • Health
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Mitchael

    I laud Dr. Gupta's questioning of when to mammography screen. Like many others, I'd much rather tolerate anxiety than cancer; 'nuff said.


    February 10, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  2. Janie in Louisiana

    Am not concerned with all the 'nay sayers' opinions. Many people questioned the advent of the institution of the Social Security system. However, many many 'Real Americans' have and are still benefiting from this system, along with the rest of us 'unreal Americans'.

    God is the victor. Seems like the conservatives and other nay sayers do not trust in the same God I pray to and trust in. I pray, vote, and take of my responsibilities and trust in God, yet there are people who would not consider me a 'Real American'. By the way, what classifies one who was born in this country and who's parents and gand parents were and all of who have paid taxes, many fought in our wars, and worked and took care of their families and voted in elections, once allowed to, as an 'unreal American'? What does it take to be a 'Real American'. Does it take agreeing with Sarah Palin? If so, count me out!

    January 6, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  3. breast cancer researcher and family doctor

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta botches his job by presenting only one-side of a complex issue. More like a politician than a clinician, he fans the flames of public outrage without shedding light on a complex subject.
    Here he could have done a great service by explaining in simple terms not only mammography's benefits but its potential harms - the most important of which is "overdiagnosis" or the treatment of "cancer" that never would have come to light in the absence of screening. Unfortunately women with a screen-detected cancer can't know if their tumor is overdiagnosed, so most if not all are treated, typically with breast surgery.
    In sum, whether the benefit outweighs the harms is not entirely clear for women in their forties, particularly for lower-risk women. So the Task Force thinks that women should decide for themselves.

    November 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  4. Charlotte Goodson

    I'd like to ask a question of all those who believe that abortions should not be paid for as a health care procedure. Name one other issue towards which our tax dollars go for which we can deny our tax dollars. I'm against war, yet my tax dollars are going (and going and going) to pay for two wars. There are those who are against corporate bailouts, yet our tax dollars are going for those bailouts. Why is abortion the ONLY issue which people can irrationally say, my tax dollars shouldn't go for that because I personally am against it.

    It seems the people who are railing against "rationing" and having the federal government involved in our personal healthcare decisions are the same people who in the next breath declare that they want the federal government involved in rationing abortions, even for medical reasons.

    November 23, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  5. Ginger_S

    3 words to BJ: Stay on point. This is not a debate about insurance costs; rather, it's a question of when to screen for breast cancer.

    The proof is in the pudding. Mammography works; so does monthly self breast exams. Page up if you're a disbeliever.

    Personally, I know 4 women who have had breast cancer. All of them are in remission and have been for 4-15 years.

    I laud Dr. Gupta's questioning of when to screen. Like many others, I'd much rather tolerate anxiety than cancer; 'nuff said.

    November 21, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  6. BJ

    Is it fair that everyone should share the burden of the cost to screen thousands of women to find that one woman who might have cancer?

    Should we all pay for every man & woman over 40 to have cardiac stress testing so that we can find the few people who have silent heart disease?

    Here's an out-of-the-box thought for all of these outraged people. Stop being so dependent on your insurance company to take care of you. Open up your purse/wallet and just pay for the test yourself if you want it so badly. No one says you can't have it, it's just that your insurance may not pay for it. It would be a small taste for what it's like for all of those people who have NO insurance at all.

    November 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  7. Judy McNary

    Obviously the panels "experts" are not breast specialists,nor are they radiologists who read mammograms or they would have never come to the conclusions they did. With the advanced technology of digital mammography which has only been widely used in the last several years, more women's breast cancers have been found when they are only a few millimeters rather than centimeters. I understand some of the studies were from the 1960's and 70's when older less reliable technology was used. To the panel member who had one mammogram at age 40 and doesn't plan on having another one until she is 50, I say bully for you. When you have breast cancer that is detected at several centimeters in size (after all you won't be doing a breast self exam), please don't cry to anyone about it. You made your own "educated" decision.

    November 20, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  8. Amy Petersen

    Many studies have shown that annual mammograms INCREASE your risk of getting breast cancer. Get the information straight people and do your own research! Thermography is the only SAFE way to screen for breast cancer. Not more radiation exposure!!

    November 20, 2009 at 12:05 am |
  9. Dorothy

    I'm a Breast Cancer survivor found by early MAMMOGRAM detection.
    This was not found by feel or self exam nor by doctor exam. IF I had waited longer then a year or two I'd have been dead or far more extrensive treatment and more costly for us and insurance company.
    This was found in November 2001. Catching it that early it had not spread to the lymphnodes. I disagree with the new guidelines.
    I had read on internet that they have these same guidelines in Europe.
    So do we call this as part of the new Health Care Reform. Think we should hope and pray for NO health Care Reform. I have no family history of breast cancer of late mother or late sibling. Thank goodness I'm a survivor. Better enjoy life while they can.....

    November 19, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  10. Chris Wiegard

    not to mention that there are actually serious questions regarding mammograms for younger women, do they cause more problems than they solve.

    November 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm |
  11. Chris Wiegard

    There has been quite an over-reaction to this. The Wealthy white women who are outraged at the very hint that they are not entitled to a yearly mammogram at age 40 need to explain how a 60 year old black woman who can't afford health insurance could ever hope to get a mammogram. Those who claw to hold on to what they have do not seem very eager to share it with those who have never had it.

    November 19, 2009 at 10:37 pm |
  12. Sonia

    I’m very troubled that Dr. Gupta is recommending that all women have a mammogram in theirs 40s with out mentioning the risks of mammograms. Decisions should be based after understanding the risks and benefits of procedures. Only the individual patient can decide what risks they are willing to take to obtain a benefit.

    I find it very unprofessional that I have not heard him mention risks such as exposing yourself to radiation once a year for 10 years; which may increase your risk of cancer. It may be more then once a year if your one of the 8% that need further imaging in this age group.
    There is a 9% risk of having a false positive result after one mammogram. You’d be taking this risk every year for 10 years.
    Other side effects include pain during the procedure and the unnecessary anxiety from a false positive result. Anxiety suffered not only by the patient but other family members and friends.
    There is a 0.26 % chance of finding a true positive. I personally will not expose myself to unnecessary radiation for a 0.26%. I think the risk is higher then the benefit.

    Other women may decide something else but we deserve to know the facts.

    November 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  13. Peter B

    Having lost a mother to cancer due to lack of early detection, I find this appalling. The timing of all this is very curious. For all you people who want the gov't involved, Lora is right. This is what is coming.

    November 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm |
  14. chuck humm

    Gave you a comment at 3:30 pm-still awaiting moderation-what gives, did my opinion disagree with CNN's?

    November 19, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  15. nwatcher

    What? One comment? Cmon CNN – Put Sarah Palin's name in the headline to get the lefties attention. Maybe people will get upset, read real news that actually affects us all, and see what our magnificent "leadership" is in Washington is trying to pull on the American Public. Mammograms today, prenatal care, geriatric care... you got it right Lora!

    November 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  16. Mike

    My wife's breast cancer was discovered by a mammogram at the age of 39! If she had waited to even 40, her chances of survival would have greatly been diminished. Leave it alone!

    November 19, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  17. chuck humm

    This obvious rationing is the future of health care if we turn it over to the government. Many will die because their care was judged not to be cost effective.

    The first things that will happen when costs escalate will be reductions in what is allowable care.

    This was a Federally sponsored and funded panel-but now the Obama administration is distancing themselves because they realize they have telegraphed their intention of rationing care.

    Wise up America–socialized health care WILL kill you!

    November 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  18. Lora Nickell

    And so it begins....govt managed health care. Next will be pap smears only every 5yrs, then physical exams every 5 yrs,etc. Now the current admin is trying to back pedal and say this new recommendation is not what they are advising-wow! Way to cover your butt. Hope everyone who is hoping for govt managed health care is enjoying this while they are still alive.

    November 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm |