Fears over X-rays

Woman (UK) - - Ask -

QAI know that mam­mo­grams in­volve X-rays and am wor­ried about the ra­di­a­tion. Should I have one?

Philippa says

In­ter­est­ing point, and you are right – mam­mo­grams do in­volve X-rays and, there­fore, ra­di­a­tion. The mam­mo­gram breast cancer screen­ing pro­gramme saves 1,300 women’s lives ev­ery year in the UK, but it also picks up some can­cers or changes that would not worsen/ be­come more se­ri­ous or risk life – about 4,000 of these each year.

This causes a sig­nif­i­cant amount of anx­i­ety, and treat­ment is of­fered for these can­cers. It also causes three to six ex­tra cases of cancer per 10,000 women hav­ing screen­ing from the ages of 50-70, which is why the screen­ing pro­gramme is ev­ery three years and not more fre­quently.

It isn’t per­fect, but it picks up more than 18,000 cases of breast cancer each year, sav­ing a lot of lives.

Philippa says

There are lots of breath­ing tech­niques, but all of them es­sen­tially in­volve slow­ing down your breath­ing. They need to be prac­tised, so you need to do them even when you don’t feel anx­ious, so they be­come au­to­matic, and can help when you do feel anx­ious.

Start by slow­ing down your breath­ing, count­ing your breath in for a count of four and then out for a breath of four counts. Or even breath­ing in for a count of four, hold­ing for a count of four and then breath­ing out for a count of six or eight.

Per­haps start prac­tis­ing when you are feel­ing calm, maybe ly­ing or sit­ting down, un­til you can do it eas­ily. Don’t worry if thoughts pop into your head, just ac­knowl­edge that and go back to fo­cus­ing on your breath. Keep prac­tis­ing!


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