1 More Reason to Fear Not Your Mammogram

1 More Reason to Fear Not Your Mammogram

It’s okay to be a little concerned about radiation exposure. As radiologists, we daily consider the risks and benefits of radiation for imaging. We want to limit the amount of radiation a person gets to reduce their risk of its potentially harmful effects.


But we also want to use radiation (very, very carefully) for its benefits as well. With it, we can find breaks in bones, issues in the nervous system and can detect cancer at its earliest stages. In short, radiation in the right dose can save lives and help begin the healing process for those who need it most.


We spend a lot of time reminding you, our lovely readership, of the benefits of mammography. We do this because it can save your life. We do this because not enough women are getting their annual screening mammograms (around 60% of women who should get screened yearly have had a mammogram in the past 2 years-not nearly good enough!). And we do this because the statistic that one in eight women getting breast cancer in her lifetime is far, far too high. There are a lot of myths about breast health out there and we aim to take them down one by one.


Today we’d like to address the fear of radiation dosage when it comes to mammograms. Many women are skipping their annual mammograms due to the fear of exposure. As it turns out, these women are guessing, incorrectly, at the amount of radiation used in mammography. A recent study shows that this overestimation is leading women away from their required screenings. This is bad news!


The average dose of radiation from a screening mammogram equals the amount of radiation you receive from background radiation (yes we get radiation from just living on earth) in about 7 weeks time – not much at all. The risks of radiation exposure from screening mammograms are theoretic only- extrapolated from studies on those receiving much larger doses of radiation all at one time.


So, rest easy. Radiation exposure from screening mammography is minimal.  The benefits of finding breast cancer and finding it early far outweigh the theoretic harms of radiation.    





Image credit: Worried bride by spaceodissey via Flickr Copyright Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Originally published 6/3/14 on mammographykc.com