Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Health Screening

Last week I went for a routine mammogram. I’m fortunate in that I live in an area where this kind of screening is performed from around the age of 47, meaning I’ve had two mammograms before some people have even been offered one.

I’m a huge advocate of health screening and firmly believe that you should seize the opportunity to accept any screening that is offered. For years I have also attended regular smear test appointments, which whilst not necessarily pleasant, are vitally important.

There are those who actually condemn health screening, citing false results leading to unnecessary treatments as a reason not to attend such appointments. However, proportionally these ‘false results’ are rare and are often discovered by a single re-test. Yes, it can be scary being told that you may have a serious disease, only to be informed it was a mistake, but surely not as scary as being told that you have incurable cancer that may have been treatable had it been detected early by screening.

My support of health screening stems from my time spent as a former nurse, and has been strengthened by the experience of two cancer deaths in the family in recent years (two of my lovely sisters). Early detection of many health problems is key, hopefully making a potentially incurable condition treatable.

I know that there will still be those who will refuse any form of screening on the basis that Auntie So-and-So was given a false result in the dim and distant past. Whilst my heart goes out to those who have suffered in this way, I’d hate too many people to be deterred from taking part in the excellent screening programmes available.

So back to last week. We all sat tentatively in the waiting room (in the mobile unit at my local shopping centre car park), anticipating the momentary discomfort caused by the ‘squeezing’ action of the x-ray machine. It was the general agreement that our visit to the screening unit merited a scrummy cream cake or extra chocolate bar as a ‘reward’. But of course, our real reward is hopefully receiving the ‘all clear’ for another three years, or at least getting early detection of a problem that will prove treatable.

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