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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Mammograms Can Be More Stressful Than Cancer

Stresses Over Mammography Plague Breast Cancer Survivors

Mammograms Induce Stress continued...

Gurevich says those findings suggest that even routine follow-up care and good mammography results can still cause anxiety among breast cancer survivors by triggering memories of earlier bouts with cancer.

"Compared with those with no history of breast cancer, the meaning and experience of mammography surveillance and cancer-related medical follow-ups are likely to be different in survivors of breast cancer, who are at higher risk for developing new primary breast cancer or a recurrence," writes Gurevich and colleagues.

To Know or Not To Know

For women considering a mammogram, experts say it's a struggle between uncertainty and fears about what might be found.

"The problem with mammograms and doing breast self-exams or clinical exams is the only thing you're looking for is bad news," says Bev Parker, director of the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization hotline. "I think we all want to shy away from that."

But by undergoing annual breast cancer screening, Parker says women can know that they're safe for another year.

Wendy Mason, helpline manager for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, agrees and says uncertainty can be much more stressful than the mammogram itself.

"The not knowing is more bothersome to a lot of the women because if they know what's wrong, at that point they can make plans for next steps and start actively doing something -- whether it's treatment or follow-up," Mason tells WebMD. "I think the not knowing causes a lot more sleepless nights."

Mason says that although breast cancer survivors may have a higher level of anxiety about mammograms, they are also keenly aware of the risks of not getting one.

"They wouldn't consider not going for a mammogram because they know that early detection is going to give them the best chance for successful treatment," says Mason.

Although every breast cancer case is different, Mason says the risk of cancer recurrence is greatest within the first two years after diagnosis and that risk decrease with time. Women are considered breast cancer free if no new or recurrent cancers are found within five years after their initial diagnosis.

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