Women and Mammography and a Safer Approach

Last month, an independent task force came out with a new recommendation for women saying they can wait until age 50 to get their first mammogram. And even then, they said, you only need to get one every other year. Well, women everywhere ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.  Some were so confused by the latest advice that they actually seemed distraught during their prime time news interviews.  And even a national women’s health organization spoke out against the new recommendation.  For two weeks straight, the report was being debated in the media.

The sad truth is that women were up in arms because they think mammograms are the best thing out there to save lives.  That couldn’t be further from the truth! There’s a far better test out there. It’s called a thermogram.  According to some data, this highly accurate test can detect cancerous cells up to 10 years before a mammogram. Plus, there’s NO radiation involved and it doesn’t cause trauma to the breast. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available yet. But with a little luck, we’ll see mammograms go by the wayside as more and more of us learn about their shortcomings. And we’ll see an increased demand for better testing. So women, go online and search out knowledgeable physicians offering breast thermography.  My information is that the cost of the test is about the same as the one that irradiates you.

Why Dismiss Mammograms:

#1: Radiation: A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. And it’s an established fact (though the American Cancer Society doesn’t want to admit it) that each test generates a huge dose of radiation. In fact, each “life-saving” mammogram generates 1 rad (radiation-absorbed doses) of exposure. And even just 1 rad can be harmful. The former Director of the National Cancer Institute ( Dr. Frank Raucscher) says every rad of exposure increases your lifetime risk of breast cancer by 1 percent. That’s for women ages 35 to 50. Other experts put the risk even higher. Especially if you got your first mammogram in the 1970s when each test delivered 5 to 10 rads of exposure.   Over a lifetime, you could actually increase your risk of breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent just by following your well-intentioned doctor’s advice and getting annual tests.

#2: Breast Trauma: The mammogram procedure painfully compresses a women’s breasts. This kind of intense trauma, year after year, can liberate tumor cells that your body might have kept contained.

#3: False negatives, false positives, and over diagnosis. Even the federal government’s task force has admitted that annual testing only pays off for a very small number of women in their 40s.  If you’re younger than 50, annual mammograms most often lead to false positives and unnecessary biopsies.  In women age 50 to 74, routine mammograms often lead to “over diagnosis.”  While mammograms do find small tumors in this age group of women, many of the tumors would never have caused a problem or “shortened a woman’s life.”   Laura J. Esserman, M.D., a breast surgeon, argues that mammograms often catch slow-growing types of cancer that may not need treatment. But they can miss aggressive, deadly types of cancer that need treatment. In fact, overall mammograms miss up to 20 percent of malignant breast cancer.

Dr. Allan Spreen writes about a major mammogram study conducted in Norway where researchers followed more than 200,000 women (age 50 to 64) as part of a national breast-screening program for six years. About half of the women received three mammograms during that time. The other half of the women got a single “screening mammogram” at the end of the six-year period. Researchers found that breast cancer rates were 22 percent higher among the women given regular mammograms. Did the extra mammograms actually increase the rate of breast cancer? He thinks it’s highly possible.  The Norwegian scientists seemed to think something else was going on too. They believed the second group of women actually did get cancer just as often. It’s just that some of their cancers may have “spontaneously regressed.”  The scientists believe the women who got just one mammogram developed just as many tumors. But their tumors went undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. And given time, some of them disappeared. In other words, the body healed itself.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet conventional doctors still spew long-winded defenses of mammograms.

Time to educate yourselves and look for safer alternatives.  Breast Thermography is just such a too.

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