Archive for May, 2008

Do Mammograms Save Lives?

Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among American women between the ages of 44 and 55. Here is some startling and little-known information about mammograms you may not know – mammograms can actually increase your risk of developing cancer. Mammograms are an ineffective tool for early detection of cancer for the following reasons:

  • The use of radiation to create an image of breast tissue can only increase the risk of harmful exposure and heightens the risk of developing cancer.
  • Mammograms are historically well-known for delivering a noticeably high rate of false-positive findings. A Swedish study of mammograms concluded that out of 60,000 women 70 percent of tumors detected by this method were in fact, not tumors. False-positive findings cause unnecessary financial as well as emotional stress on the patient, family, and friends. Mammograms also come out with at least as many false-positives. In his book, Politics of Cancer, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein reports that 1 in 4 instances of cancer is missed during mammography. The rate is even higher according to the National Cancer Institute at 40 percent among women ages 40 to 49.
  • Compression of breast tissue can often lead to further development of mutated cells and cancerous conditions. As far back as 1928, warnings were issued to physicians to handle “cancerous breasts with care— for fear of accidentally disseminating cells” and spreading cancer (from D.T. Quigley, Some neglected points in the pathology of breast cancer, and treatment of breast cancer. Radiology, May 1928, pp. 338– 346). Mammography utilizes tight compression of breast tissue to complete its imaging, which can lead to the rupture of malignant cells and blood vessels near undetected cancers.

In 1978, Irwin J. D. Bross., Director of Biostatistics at Roswell Park Memorial Institute for Cancer Research remarked about the cancer screening program:

“The women should have been given the information about the hazards of radiation at the same time they were given the sales talk for mammography… Doctors were gung ho to use it on a large scale. They went right ahead and x-rayed not just a few women but a quarter of a million women… A jump to the exposure of a quarter of a million persons to something which could do more harm than good was criminal and it was supported by money from the federal government and the American Cancer Society.” (Excerpt from H.L. Newbold, Vitamin C Against Cancer, 1979).

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) was warned in 1974 by professor Malcolm C. Pike at the University of Southern California School of Medicine that a number of specialists had concluded that “giving a women under age 50 a mammogram on a routine basis is close to unethical.” (From “X-Ray Mammography Background to a Decision,” By Daniel Greenberg in the New
England Journal of Medicine, September 23, 1976).

Many women who have fibrous tissue or lumps deemed as benign and also are under the age of 40 – the age at which the American Cancer Society recommends annual screenings should begin – are coerced into having mammograms done repeatedly, even when no cancerous findings are located. This causes unnecessary exposure to radiation and compression. Most traditional practitioners also spend little to no time emphasizing natural treatments nor lifestyle and nutritional alternations which could largely reduce or entirely prevent carcinogenic development.

A good alternative to mammograms is a process called thermography, or “mammoscaning”. Thermography is an FDA approved procedure which does not use radiation nor breast compression, and has been used in European countries for many years. Thermography does not lose effectiveness due to denseness of breast tissue, as is the frequent criticism of mammograms – thus reducing chances of false-negative results. The process uses infrared imaging sensors to detect heat changes in the body that signal the presence of cancerous findings. This process can actually detect changes that could mean a precancerous condition even earlier than mammography, allowing patient and doctor to map out lifestyle changes and provide a much higher rate of survival and prevention of further malignant development.

The technology of thermography, then, should be great news to women everywhere for education and knowledge about a frightening medical issue that can bring information soon enough to implement necessary changes to prevent a problem from occurring in the future.

For more information on this exciting technology, visit the sites of Dr. Ann Huycke and  Dr. Rose Thomas.

New! Updated information on mammograms as a way to detect cancer and thermography:

To mammogram…or not

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