Headlines state that the deaths from breast cancer are decreasing. That is true, but new breast cancer cases are still rising by 1 to 2 percent each year. Breast cancer cases in women over 65 are increasing by 40 percent in the United States. Women are pressed by their doctors into getting yearly breast mammograms. They are told it is the most accurate way to diagnose breast cancer. If that is true, why is it that 90 percent of breast cancers are detected by woman or their partner by breast self exam, not by mammograms. If mammograms are so effective at finding breast cancer, why are 80 percent of mammogram-initiated biopsies found to be benign or a false positive? Where is the truth in all this? This article will give you the pros and cons of these tests so you can make your own decision.
World View on Mammograms: Since 2003, other countries do not advise women to have mammograms yearly, unless a physical exam warrants more intensive tests.
New American Cancer Guidelines: It has been proven by many research projects, that early mammograms do not decrease death rates. They do increase unnecessary biopsies and over treatment. The American Cancer Society has now revised their guidelines: women under 50 years of age should avoid screening mammograms; women from 40 to 49 to have a mammogram every two years; women 35 years and older are told to give themselves a breast self exam once a month; women over 50 should have a breast exam yearly.
Breast Mammography: uses radiography or x-rays to view the breast tissue. The American Cancer Society advises women to have a breast mammogram every year to two years depending on your age, even though it submits your breast tissue to dangerous radiation.
What the mammogram can detect:
Identifies small tumors that women often don’t feel on a manual exam
Identifies abnormal calcification that is a precursor to breast duct carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer.
Effectiveness: has limited sensitivity and only correctly identifies from 20 to 30 percent of cancerous tumors; hormone therapy makes it less sensitive in detecting cancer; young women have denser breast tissue which means a high rate of false positives in this age group; does not work well in women with large, dense, or fibrocystic breasts; and misses tumors near the chest wall.
Even though it can detect the abnormal calcification, it does not detect the actual ductal carcinoma in situ in most cases.
In a study of 60,000 Swedish women, 70 percent of the tumors identified by the mammogram were not tumors at all. They were all false positive results. This leads to unnecessary biopsies.
Are Mammograms Safe: Many experts, including Dr. John W. Gofman, a scientist and authority on the effects of ionizing radiation, says that 75 percent of breast cancer could be prevented by reducing your exposure to mammograms, medical x-rays, and dental x-ray sources. This now includes air port x-ray exams.
Since mammography were introduced, ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer has increased by 328 percent. 200 percent of this is considered due to mammograms. The National Cancer Institute released research that shows in women less than 35 years of age, that the mammograms could cause 75 cases of breast cancer for every 15 it identifies.
Pregnant women should not expose themselves to radiation because of possible DNA damage to their fetus including birth defects and possible leukemia developing in the child later.
Studies show that mammograms can cause or increase the risk factor in women who have the inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene for breast cancer.
A Canadian study found a 52 percent rise in breast cancer deaths in young women given annual mammograms.
Radiation Dose: The American Cancer Society downplays the radiation danger from mammograms. They state it’s no more a problem than the natural radiation we receive from our environment. Many experts, including Dianna Hunt, a senior staff x-ray technologist for 20 years refutes their statements. She states that the x-ray dosage is 11.9 times greater than the exposure to natural radiation in a year.
Each mammogram radiation dose equals form 0.25 to 1 rad. They usually take two pictures of each breast which equals 1 to 4 rads each exam. According to many experts, the dose can be much higher that these figures. These experts, including Samuel Epstein, M.D., from the University of Chicago’s School of Public Health state that one rad is equal to a one percent increase for developing breast cancer. If women have an annual x-ray starting at age 50, she will receive 20 rads of radiation by the time she is 70. Women who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb absorbed 35 rads of radiation. Radiation accumulates in the body, damaging DNA with each mammogram.
Radiation Sensitive Gene: Some 10,000 women carry a gene, called the oncogene AC which is triggered by radiation, even small doses. In these women, a single mammogram will increase her risk for developing breast cancer by 4 to 6 times.
The Exam Procedure: Professor Anthony Miller, from the Toronto National Cancer Institute, states that cancerous cells are pushed into the bloodstream by the mammographic plates during the test. DNA in the breast tissue is more easily damaged by radiation than any other tissues in the body except for fetal cells. The younger the breast cells, the more sensitive they are too damage.
Breast Thermography: New technology which uses infrared sensors to detect heat and increased blood flow. Cancer tissue is hotter than healthy tissue. The computer image shows hot areas in the breast that need to be examined. It’s safe and noninvasive; is found to be correct 90% of the time when detecting cancers.
Breast thermography is used effectively to determine if a tumor is benign or cancerous, reducing the rate of unnecessary biopsies. This new technology is more effective than the mammogram at detecting invasive ductal carcinoma cancers.
Breast Self Exam: The breast self exam is the most effective way to find breast cancer lumps. Your doctor can show you how to do the exam correctly. There are some online sites to give you proper directions as well. It should be performed monthly so you know how your normal breast tissue feels. Then if a lump develops, you will realize it’s there and get it examined early.
Please review the links below so that you can make your own decisions on these tests.