Mammograms are widely touted as an effective breast cancer screening tool. But some research and experts suggest that it could be causing more harm than good.Increases cancer risk
In undergoing mammograms, women are exposed to radiation. And radiation, as we know, is a cause of cancer.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, an oncologist, brain surgeon, and neuroscientist, estimated that annual mammograms could raise breast cancer risk by 1 percent to 3 percent per year. According to him, "some radiologists say it's even higher than that".

In a study on 1,600 European women published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in July 2006, researchers found that women who underwent mammograms at least once had a 54 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer as compared to those who never did.

Further, Dr. Samuel Epstein, in his book The Politics of Cancer, wrote: "Regular mammography of younger women increases their cancer risks. Analysis of controlled trials over the last decade has shown consistent increases in breast cancer mortality within a few years of commencing screening. This confirms evidence of the high sensitivity of the premenopausal breast, and on cumulative carcinogenic effects of radiation."

And it's not just about the radiation. During mammograms, the breast is at times quite literally crushed, in a bid to get clearer images. The pain can get so bad as to bring tears to some women's eyes. Such physical manipulation of tumors, should they be present, could actually trigger the spread of cancer cells into the system, thereby elevating the risk of future metastasis.

Indeed, Dr. Charles Simone, a former National Cancer Institute associate, said that "mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth."

Poor accuracy

Many doctors do not feel that mammograms are effective at detecting breast tumors. In a Swedish study published in the British Medical Journal which involved 60,000 women, it was revealed that seven out of every 10 tumors flagged up by mammograms were in fact false positives.

And false positives often result in unnecessary emotional anguish, financial drain, invasive biopsies, and even physical maiming.

The "diagnostics are really not that accurate, and they are causing a lot of women to have chemo and radiation for no reason at all," said Dr. Blaylock.

And not to mention lose their breasts through mastectomies as well.

Doesn't lower death rate

To compound matters, some research, including a recent large Canadian study which followed 90,000 women for 25 years, showed that mammograms did not lower the overall death rate from breast cancer. It is clear that while mammograms could have saved some women, it's probably also harming others. Here, it is important to make the distinction between emotional and statistical analyses and keep the big picture in mind.

Profits and politics

Why, then, does mammography remain a mainstream screening tool?

"This industry supports radiologists, x-ray technicians, surgeons, nurses, manufacturers of x-ray equipment, hospitals, etc, and will not be allowed to disappear by curing and preventing breast cancer," said Dr. James Howenstine.

"There is evidence that mammograms are not really that diagnostic and may be inducing breast cancer, particularly in highly sensitive women. But so much money is being made, and so much money has been invested in these units in hospitals, that no one wants to admit the truth," Dr. Blaylock also said.

Alternative diagnostic tool

A good alternative to mammography is thermography, a safe, very accurate, inexpensive diagnostic method which can detect breast cancer many years earlier than physical exams and mammograms. Progressive physicians in Europe and the US have been using thermography since 1962.

Thermograms - a safe, accurate and reliable alternative to mammograms

 Various researchers and experts have highlighted several issues and limitations with using mammograms as the main method of breast cancer diagnosis. A viable alternative is thermography. Thermograms are safe, nontoxic, highly accurate and inexpensive.

What is thermography?

Thermography is carried out based on infrared heat emission by the body's tissues. As bodily cells go about their usual metabolic processes, they give out heat. Cancerous tumors tend to emit more infrared heat than their healthy counterparts, i.e. they are hotter.

Using information on the varying heat emissions, thermography is able to produce images that provide insight into the functional status of a specific area of the human body, in this case the breasts.

Further, as compared to normal tissue, cancer growths are also regulated to a much lower extent by the autonomic nervous system. For example, when cool air is blown over the breasts, the autonomic nervous system lowers the amount of blood flow to normal breast tissue as a means of temperature regulation. The blood and blood vessels at the tumor site, however, are not under autonomic control and do not become cooler - thermography would thus show the abnormal tissues up as "hot spots".

The process is simple

The woman to be screened stands bare-chested about 10 feet from the machine, and imaging lasts for only a few minutes. The results are available instantaneously on the monitor, and the information can usually be interpreted quickly with the relevant software.

The woman feels no pain, there is no physical compression of the breasts, and no rays or radiation enter the lady's body.

Advantages and benefits of thermograms

Because neither ionizing radiation nor mechanical pressure are used, thermography does not increase cancer risk or promote cancer spread, making it a safer procedure. And because there is no pain, the process is more comfortable as well.

Unlike mammograms, which become less accurate with denser breast tissue, thermography's accuracy is not affected by tissue density.

Significantly, in the case of breast cancer, thermograms can flag out cancer development five years before mammograms are able to do so. It does so by showing up the early stages of angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels which is a necessary precursor to tumor formation. Most breast tumors would have been slowly growing for up to two decades before conventional diagnostic methods can detect them. And at the earlier stages of development, cancer tumors are relatively easy to stop and reverse.

Thermograms can also detect breast cancer years earlier than physical examinations.


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