Yes. I was bullied for refusing a mammogram!
Before you judge my refusal, know that I had very good reasons to do so. I just never expected to be bullied for it.
As usual, I went to the doctor for my annual checkup. Being over 40 you get used to getting bombarded with “you need to do this”, “you need to take that”, “prevention here”, “prevention there”.
It gets old pretty quickly.
So when I went through the intake process with the doctor and my medical history, I explained that I whenever I get a mammogram I always get in the findings that I have “dense breasts”.
Having dense breasts mean that the radiology tech can’t read what’s going on in the breast. The next obvious step in that situation is to send the patient for an ultrasound to make sure there is nothing they missed.
And that’s exactly what I asked the doctor to order instead of wasting time with a test I knew was not going to show anything. Better yet, the tech would not be able to read it anyway, so why spend the money?
If you are familiar with my blog, you already know that I like to research everything about medical conditions (it’s part of my job anyway).
I also preach that you should take charge of your treatment and that you should never accept your doctor’s words as the final word on the matter. The reason I say this is because a lot of my clients’ medical impairments started with doctor’s mistakes!
So you can imagine that when I decided to refuse a mammogram I had already researched other alternatives to make sure I got the best results with the least amount of harm to my body.
While I don’t want you to take my word for it either, I did my research and this is what I concluded:
Mammograms are not accurate despite what doctors say. They are not 100% safe and they cause a lot of distress not only during the exam but also when the results come out.
And here is the worst part: the test results can yield a lot of “false positives” or “false negatives“. And when it does get it right, it means that cancer could have been there for a while. Even if you got a mammogram every year and you never got a diagnosis the year before! Especially in dense breasts.
But wait, there’s more!
Though mammograms emit low levels of radiation onto the breast during testing, according to several studies this radiation is cumulative. Now, imagine this radiation accumulating every year in your breast?
I even learned that mammograms can cause breast cancer!!
First, because they can spread cancer cells when your breast is compressed during the exam. Second, radiation causes cancer!! Everyone knows that.
When I learned about mammograms being this dangerous I was just sick to my stomach. I felt fooled!
They tell you to get a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Now, imagine getting one every year for the rest of your life?
Oh, before you tell me I’m a conspiracy theorist know that this information came from several reputable cancer researchers including universities, cancer societies, and highly qualified specialists who are now questioning this recommendation. And yes, I also know people who were saved by these tests, etc, etc.
I also have family members, friends and also clients who have gone through this. So when I refused to undergo a test that everybody knows is the “standard”, understand that I did not take this lightly.
But it’s my body. It’s my choice!
I decided to skip the mammogram (for all the reasons above) and go straight to getting an ultrasound. And yes, I know ultrasounds are not perfect either.
Boy, was that a fun experience?
The Bullying Began In The Waiting Room
When I arrived at the imaging place, I checked in and I thought I would be in and out in no more than 30 minutes.
After waiting for about 25 minutes (the waiting room was not full) I noticed that they were taking a long time to call me.
Eventually, the staff called me to tell me that “because of my age” I had to do a mammogram and they were trying to reach the doctor to get an order in and that’s why the long wait.
I told them I had no interest in doing a mammogram.
The staff just about had a fit.
First, the glares. Second, the look you get when you order a “Big Mac” without pickles and onions. They, just. Can’t. Even.
Then they started repeating the same thing over and over again: “Because of your age, bla, bla”.
I told them again, I had no interest in doing a mammogram.
Then they started getting loud. Loud enough for everybody to hear.
Then they said: “we can’t do an ultrasound without a mammogram first!”.
I explained why I did not want a mammogram (not the conspiracy part but the logical part): “I have dense breasts, it’s waste of time and money“.
They again repeated: “because of your age…and we can’t…without a mammogram“. Loudly!
So, loudly, I asked, “is this a rule you just made up to make a buck here? ” “And how about my wishes?” “What if I had done a mammogram elsewhere and I was just here for the ultrasound?”
I could not believe this was happening to me. I felt bullied. In front of others too!
And whatever happened to privacy and HIPPA laws?
They just couldn’t handle that decision. I think it was mostly money and ignorance. Or pure disrespect for people’s wishes.
But Wait, there’s even more!
After an eternity waiting, they finally called me in to do the ultrasound. But you would think the bullying was over? Not quite!
The radiology tech still tried to push the mammogram again. She gave me the whole lecture again. I explained my reasons again.
She left the room. Then she came back with another “offer”: “we have this 3D mammogram. It’s great with dense breasts. Of course, there’s still compression. There’s still radiation”
Whatever happened with “no, means no”?
I refused. I felt bullied one more time.
I just thought, “just hold your tongue and get the ultrasound and it will be over soon“.
Was it over? Nooooo.
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We went to the exam room, she did the ultrasound and then she went to get the doctor. Supposedly they are required to tell you the results right there and then.
I thought, “Great, I will get the results now and can go home knowing that it’s all good” and this bullying will finally be over.
I was wrong. Again!
The doctor came in and instead of telling me the result of the ultrasound, she gave me yet one more lecture. I tried to reason with her. And I explained my feelings about radiation and the usefulness of a mammogram on my dense breasts. I told her that doctors always send me for ultrasounds because of the dense breasts.
But no, she was pushing that mammogram like HER life depended on it.
I explained to her that my intention was to do a thermogram. A thermogram is a noninvasive, nonradioactive imaging that allows a doctor see the formation of cancer cells years, yes, YEARS before they become cancer.
I even asked that doctor if they offered that service there since they were so keen to take my money no matter what.
Not only did she say no, but she also lied to my face saying that this exam is not FDA approved. A BIG FAT LIE!
Thermograms are FDA approved since 1982 (you can Google it if you don’t believe me). Probably available before she was even born!
To add insult to injury, I had to almost beg for her to give me the result of the ultrasound.
She begrudgingly did, but I only got a: “it was fine” mumbled between her teeth as she was storming out of the room.
What in the world was that?!!! Was I in the twilight zone?
Why the anger? Did she just want to be right?
It did not feel like warm and fuzzies. Or that she sincerely cared for me. It felt as stressful and dirty as leaving a car salesman behind.
I never expected to be bullied for refusing a mammogram.
Me. The person who researches everything. The person who takes charge of her treatment and will not let doctors tell her that she needs a medication for the rest of her life when she really doesn’t!
Do You Think That Was The End of It?
When I received the written report with the results of my ultrasound they still wanted to have the last word.
Even though the result was normal and that it said I had only a 15% chance of getting cancer in my lifetime, they wrote that I refused to do this “mandatory” exam and that I was supposed to do that every year and so on!
They really just wanted me to feel bad!
(Face Palm Emoji!)
Please Understand My Reasons for Refusing a Mammogram
The reason I’m sharing this is not to shame breast cancer patients or undermine what they are going through. Or even to undermine the usefulness of mammograms.
My goal is to bring awareness that you must stand up for yourself. And you must take charge of your medical treatment. That ultimately you decide what you wish for your body!
The cancer industry is a profitable one and they feed off fear. “You must do this. Or do that, or else…”
I truly believe we get cancer because of fear but that’s another story.
The point here is that this situation I went through should not be acceptable.
If there are other tests that won’t put you at risk you should go for it.
Sure, talk to your doctor, explain your reasons. If he’s close-minded, find someone else who will listen. If it makes sense to you then why not try?
If I know there is a test that is more accurate (in combination with others) and that will not expose me to high levels of radiation, I want that. Even if it’s not what the majority of people do.
Science gets better every day. New tests are out every day. Why settle for treatments and diagnosis that are known for harming people?
The reason mammograms are sold is because of the cancer lobbying and because it’s a great money maker.
Doctors are now questioning the accuracy of mammograms and the stress they cause when a person is diagnosed with cancer and it turns out to be nothing. Many unnecessary biopsies happen because of the inaccuracy of mammograms.
Think of the hardship and stress. Also, the expense.
Prevention? Early Detection?
Well, they sell mammograms as a tool for early detection. Early detection is important but understand, that you can have cancer and a mammogram may still not be able to “see it”.
False positives are very common and so are false negatives (like dense breasts and showing nothing on film and giving the patient a false sense of security).
I bet you anything, by the time your loved one or friend found that cancer, it was probably something the person could feel or see. The mammogram just confirmed it. It is also common for people to know they have cancer from another exam like a PET scan and a mammogram will still not find it.
Always self-examine. Always check the skin around your breasts. Look for dimpling, unusual discharges or an inverted nipple. Check your family history to see if any close relatives have had breast cancer.
And please, research!!
Don’t accept your doctor’s words as the final word. Get second opinions.
Doctor’s don’t know it all.
They need to make money to pay their student loans. It’s very tempting to just keep the status quo. It’s easier to prescribe treatment and medications than do more research for a patient. Even if it can harm them.
I see too many of these cases ending up on my desk. And I hate to see people being taken advantage of by doctors who either don’t care or just don’t know enough to really do a good job.
Take good care of yourself and don’t let anyone bully you if you want a different course of treatment. It is your body after all.
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