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Monday, May 02, 2005

Don't get your tits In a wringer 

Women beware: Can you trust your mammogram? Thousands of women across Canada are screened on equipment of questionable quality
This kind of health scare story really annoys me -- the story is NOT about the trustworthiness of the mammograms or the quality of the machines, in spite of the subhed. Its actually about whether or not mammogram machines have been accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists.
The article does not list any missed diagnoses or false positives, even by the radiologists who are complaining. There is not a single oncologist who is quoted as blaming a poor mammogram for a missed diagnosis -- in fact, there aren't any interviews with oncologists at all. Instead, the article includes a lot of complaints from mammogram clinic operators about how the accreditation process is unnecessarily costly, difficult, and inflexible.
What concerns me is this: a mammogram is one of the most unpleasant medical procedures that women undergo -- plainly, it hurts, and the test requires that the pain be repeated at least four to six times, and while the pain is brief, its is pretty intense (men, think of the first burst of pain you experience when kicked in the balls, and you'll be about right) Women will seize on just about any excuse to avoid this test, so even the possibility that the equipment might be defective and therefore the test useless might be enough to convince some women not to bother. But the story doesn't identify any machines anywhere in the country as actually defective at all -- some may be, of course, but the article doesn't give us any clue about this.
Its hardly the kind of health panic story which justifies front page treatment in the Globe and Mail -- unless its the Saturday edition of a slow Canadian news week, and you want a lot of women who are out shopping to see the big, black headline and buy the paper.

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