There is a great deal of controversy over mammograms and whether or not they should be done less frequently or not done at all, the argument being – are they really safe and effective?
Dr. Archie Bleyer is a clinical research professor in the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He says a study by experts in preventative medicine recommended women no longer receive mammograms every year after the age of 40. Many physicians are no longer suggesting mammograms at all for women in the 40 year age group. One of the main reasons is that younger women’s breasts are denser which can cause false positives for cancer.
Furthermore, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force did advise, in 2009, that women between 50 and 74 receive mammograms every other year to reduce the exposure to radiation.
One of the problems with mammography cited is that many of these tests which detect early stages of breast cancer turn out not to be cancer or the growths were benign. This is commonly referred to as over diagnosis.
There is no sure way to distinguish between malignant and benign breast cancers through mammography; therefore many women go through years of unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and drug treatments when they didn’t have breast cancer in the first place.
However, the amount of stress added to a woman’s life by being told she has cancer when she does not can be significant and actually cause cancer, along with the treatments women often get. These factors take mammograms out of the realm of being safe and effective.
Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention discusses the pros and cons of cancer detection. He says cervical and colorectal cancers can be diagnosed and treated quite easily with various testing. However, mammograms have problems such as unnecessary treatments due to inaccurate testing, as mentioned above.
He further says that because over diagnosis leads to treatments which are not needed, this creates the appearance that screening works better than it actually does.
Another thing that makes mammography look better is when the diagnosis date is set earlier and that extends the survival rate, even though the date of death remains the same.
The debate, he says, actually centers on the risks associated with the frequency of the testing and the age at the time of testing, even though some success with mammograms has been established with random testing.
According to Dr.Mercola, the imaging industry is in quite an uproar over the suggestion to cut down on the amount of imaging done – which includes MRIs and ultrasound, the reason being it reduces income dramatically. As a result, these imaging companies pass out massive amounts of promotion to encourage women to get mammograms.
The task force on the effectiveness of mammograms point out that they can cause breast cancer, especially in younger women. The tests use high doses of radiation which cause mutations that lead to breast cancer.
A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine reported, At best, mammograms have had a small effect on the rate of death from breast cancer.
It said mammograms reduced deaths by 0.4 for every 1000. That’s a very insignificant amount.
Scientific research now says the immune system is the best defense against cancer but chemotherapy and radiation treatments destroy the ability of this healing part of the body to do its work.
Breast surgeon Susan Love of UCLA says 30% of breast cancer would simply disappear if nothing at all were done.
By middle age, everyone has cancerous or precancerous cells in their bodies. Whether they develop into cancer depends on the strength of the immune system.
A much safer way to perform breast cancer screening is through thermography. It’s safe and simply measures the infrared heat emitted by the body and turns them into thermal images. It does not use radiation and it can detect cancer ten years before a mammogram or even a physical exam.
They can be done every year without the risks that mammograms hold from being done every year.
Many women have benefited from mammogram screening but the risks need to be carefully considered. If a thermogram can detect breast cancer more accurately, safely and much sooner, it seems mammograms might not be so safe and effective
Written by Lucille Femine