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Young breast cancer survivor responds to new mammogram guidelines

by Maggie O'Mara

Bio | Email | Follow: @maggiektvb7

KTVB.COM

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:40 AM

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force mammogram guidelines recommending women start getting screenings at 50 instead of 40 - have generated a lot of feedback from our viewers. There are so many stories to share from young survivors right here in the Treasure Valley, I decided to blog about one of them.

Jennifer Poole was diagnosed at the age of 35 with Stage 2 breast cancer, and she says an early screening mammogram saved her life. Yesterday she was floored by what she read in the news... 

"I am in shock over the new breast cancer screening guidelines.  I know mammograms are not 100% accurate but come up with something better instead of throwing out all the screening we have!"

This morning she sent me this... unfortunately her story is something too many young women can relate to: 

Maggie,

I was lucky enough to start getting mammograms at 35 due to my aunts and grandma being survivors. In the fall of 2006 I went in for my baseline mammogram at 35. My self exams were normal, the clinical exam was normal, the mammogram showed a large, but deep tumor. It was about the size of a thumb but shaped like a hook so only a small part could be felt when you knew right where to look.

I truly believe this early mammogram saved my life. The cancer had not spread, and if I had waited until I could actually feel the tumor I believe it would have made it to other areas in my body.  I have undergone 5 months of chemo, a year of Herceptin and 8 surgeries (so far) to remove and reconstruct my breasts. But - I am here and trying to spread the word about awareness in young women. I am seeing more and more women in their 30s and 40s being told they have cancer, and I am seeing many of them die because they waited to have it checked. 70-80% of these women do not have a family history or other risk factor!
 
As for the idea that they are trying to reduce the stress of false positives, I had a false positive just last month. I had to undergo additional ultrasounds and biopsies. Yes, I was stressed - but the area of concern was small enough that even if it was cancer (which it wasn't) I would have again caught it early. The worry of waiting 24 hours for those results is not fun, but I will take it over finding it too late and worrying about if I am going to live!

Jennifer Poole
Breast Cancer Survivor

 Even with the USPSTF's guidelines, the American Cancer Society is holding firm on its recommendations:

"The American Cancer Society continues to recommend annual screening using mammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginning at age 40. Our experts make this recommendation having reviewed virtually all the same data reviewed by the USPSTF, but also additional data that the USPSTF did not consider. When recommendations are based on judgments about the balance of risks and benefits, reasonable experts can look at the same data and reach different conclusions." - American Cancer Society

You can learn more about Jennifer's story of survival by reading her blog:

http://www.youngsurvivor.blogspot.com/

 

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