In October 1991 my doctor sent me hospital for a mammogram. (I am 57.)

Shortly after this test I developed pain in my left breast. When my doctor examined me, she felt no lumps or abnormalities. A second consultant confirmed her diagnosis that nothing was wrong.

Three years later, I attended a routine breast screening programme. Almost immediately after the mammogram, my breast pain increased and was at times excruciating. The pain did not subside, and I was horrified when I received a letter of recall. After a grueling day of x-rays, ultrasound and hand examinations, I was told I had what looked like a fibroadenoma in my left breast and that I could have it aspirated to make sure it was benign, which would involve another four x-rays on the left breast; I’d ready had had four. I then went to another clinic, where it was discovered that I had a lumpy area in my other breast.

What effect do mammograms have on certain people? I never experienced pain in my breast before the 1991 mammogram, and it seemed as though I developed lumps after the second mammogram in 1995. Is there another non evasive diagnostic procedure? E P, Glasgow……….

Phyllis Korngurth, chief of the breast imaging section at Duke University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Durham, North Carolina, recently completed a study of 166 women over age 50, showing that 91 per cent experienced some degree of pain and 15 per cent had intense pain. Denser breast tissue, as opposed to fatty tissue, is associated with a greater sensitivity to pain.

As x-rays can cause tissue damage, it is possible that they cause benign as well as malignant tumours. Your best alternatives may be self examination and breast ultrasound, which, at the moment, seems the lesser of two evils, particularly for breast lumps that are easily felt (see WDDTY vol 6 no 11).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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