You know celebrity chef and author Sandra Lee from her "Semi-Homemade" cooking concept, but earlier this year announced that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went on "Good Morning America" to discuss her diagnosis and her treatment, and to offer advice. She wants all women to get breast cancer screening, even at young ages. Huffington Post gives us the details.
"Girls in 20s and their 30s just have to know,” Lee, 48, said. “And I don't want women to wait. And that's why I'm talking. … If it saves one person, and makes one more person go get a mammogram, and if they're sitting down right now watching this, don't watch this TV. Go pick your phone up, and call your doctor and get your rear end in there and get a mammogram right now.”
Watching the interview, it would be difficult not to feel sympathy and inspiration — particularly since Lee was speaking with Robin Roberts, the GMA host who also had (and survived) a high-profile fight with breast cancer. Lee’s prognosis seems good, based on what she described on camera. While she spoke of the physical and emotional challenges of cancer treatment, which in her case will include a double mastectomy, she also talked about her expectations of recovery and her plans for afterward, which include talking to her young nieces about mammography.
But the question of who should get breast cancer screening — and, more important, when people should get it — is actually among the most controversial topics in medicine today.
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Mammography first gained acceptance as a screening tool in the 1960s and 1970s. Widespread use followed in the 1980s and '90s -- thanks to activism, public education, government outreach and recommendations from independent scientific authorities. Today, screening rates in the U.S. are among the highest in the world, with about eight in 10 women getting the test, although poor, uninsured women are far less likely to get regular mammograms and progress on improving screening rates has stalled recently, according to newly released data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most experts agree that the development and refinement of screening technology has saved many lives overall, because it has given physicians the tools to diagnose tumors much earlier -- in many cases, early enough to remove a lethal cancer before it spreads and kills. But screening for breast cancer, like any medical intervention, has downsides as well as upsides.
Mammograms have gotten better at detecting tumors in the earliest stages -- so much so that, in some cases, they are detecting tumors that might not be dangerous. (This is also true for testing to detect other cancers, particularly prostate cancer.) The scans also can yield false positives. Either result will typically lead to a biopsy and, in many cases, some kind of treatment, whether it's surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or some combination of the four. Each of these carry risks. Invasive procedures are not just painful, but can potentially cause infections. Medications, particularly the powerful drugs that fight cancer, can have difficult, toxic side effects.
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>> Read more: Should You or Should You Not Get a Mammogram?