Mammo Panic

Mammo Panic

Mammo Panic

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 25 2009 11:12 AM

Mammo Panic

Emily B. maybe the government task force on mammography was actually a plot by radiologists to get more American women to insist on mammograms. This whole mess is partly the fault of the cancer establishment. Think how many times you've heard "one in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime" – a slogan that always makes me wonder how you pull off the trick of getting cancer after your lifetime. It turns out that statistic is not about actual incidence, but a projection of how many women would get breast cancer if every woman lived to be 85 – which they don’t. The real numbers are alarming enough without inflating our sense of risk with this statistical trick.  A woman who is 40 actually has a one in 69 risk of getting breast cancer in the subsequent decade. But you can hardly blame women for the reaction that they don’t trust the task force report. First we’re browbeaten into getting mammograms and told if we don’t do this yearly we’re risking our lives and potentially leaving our children motherless. Then we’re told, "Never mind!"

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.