Should you get mammograms?
There is no evidence that breast-cancer screening with mammography saves women's lives.
Did you know that screening mammography provides approximately 1,000 times greater radiation exposure than a chest X-ray?
The European experts formal review is unable to find any evidence for the benefit of mammograms.
Even the National Cancer Institute admits that monthly breast self-examination (BSE) following a brief training, in conjunction with annual clinical breast examinations (CBE) by a trained health care professional, is at least as effective as mammography.(1)
Yet, you have U.S. "experts" who regularly come up with recommendations to increase the use of mammography and add billions of wasted dollars to our bloated health care budget with no benefit and causing increased radiation-induced cancers in many women.
National Cancer Institute and mammograms
It is interesting to note that although mammography does lead to the discovery of smaller, earlier-stage cancerous tumors, it still does not improve breast cancer SURVIVAL RATES over physical examination alone.
A study names the "Canadian National Breast Screening Study-2 (CNBSS-2)" has been following more than 39,000 women assigned either to examination plus mammography or to annual physical examination alone, since the mid-1980s .
In an ongoing series of updates, the authors have reported the results of their study 10 to 16 years after the start of the study (1).
Consistent with this 2.1-year lead-time advantage, cancerous tumors detected by mammography plus physical examination tend to be smaller and they are also less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes, the investigators report. Unfortunately, the researchers admit, these apparent advantages do not result in an increased SURVIVAL RATE for women screened with mammography plus physical examination (1).
The above findings were not published in some "rinky-dink" press release or journal. This is from the National Cancer Institute.
Another study (2) published in the British medical journal "The Lancet" on Oct. 20, 2001 fired up a passionate debate among doctors in Europe and the U.S. when it found that mammograms do not prevent women from dying of breast cancer or help them avoid mastectomies.
The study found that those promises are an illusion, and questioned the assumption that early detection of breast tumors, before they can be detected by an external examination, improves the chances of a cure.
It's interesting how mammograms can be found to provide absolutely no benefit in terms of survival rate, yet they are the"standard of care" of mainstream medicine. "Quackbusters" like Stephen Barrett love to jump on alternative medical treatments as being essentially worthless, yet I don't hear him referring to the thousands of mainstream doctors ordering mammograms as "quacks". If this same exact study had produced similar findings for an alternative practice such as chelation, he and the government would be striving to shut down alternative medical practices across the country.
Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, says she welcomes the mammography dispute (3). "We know that mammography screening has serious limitations, yet it has been sold as the be-all and end-all for breast cancer," Ms. Visco said. "When someone says, 'We have to question that assumption', we're thrilled. We've been questioning it from the beginning".
"I'm not ready to tell women over 50 not to get screened," Ms. Visco said. "But what we are telling women is that we don't have a good screening test to detect breast cancer early and we're not sure what to do when we find it early."
Most doctors recommend mammograms because they are afraid of being sued by a woman who developed breast cancer after not being advised to get a mammogram.
Mammograms are NOT risk-free
Radiation was introduced into medicine almost immediately after the discovery of the x-ray (by Wilhelm Roentgen) in 1895.
It is absolutely irrefutable that the use of radiation in medicine has many benefits. However many experts provide a powerful argument for acquiring all the benefits of medical radiation with the use of much lower doses of radiation.
Within the profession of radiology, there are mainstream experts who have shown how the dosage of x-rays in current practice could be cut by 50%, or more - without any loss of information and without eliminating a single procedure.
You really don't have to be a nuclear physicist to understand that mammograms (x-rays) cause cancer.
But it helps.
Dr. John Gofman is a nuclear physicist - he holds a Ph.D in nuclear and physical chemistry - as well as a medical doctor. He is also one of the leading experts in the world in these issues and his conclusion is that a high percentage of cancers today are x-ray induced.
The evidence presented in his book, "Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease", strongly indicates that over 50% of the death-rate from cancer today, and over 60% of the death-rate from ischemic heart disease today, are x-ray-induced.
While a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, Gofman earned his Ph.D. in 1943 in nuclear/physical chemistry. His faculty advisor was Glenn T. Seaborg (who became Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1961-1971).
Dr. Gofman's 5 books present a series of findings. His 1990 book includes his proof, "by any reasonable standard of biomedical proof", that there is no threshold level (no harmless dose) of ionizing radiation with respect to radiation carcinogenesis and mutagenesis. His 1996 book provides evidence to support the claim that medical radiation is a necessary co-factor in about 3/4 of the recent and current breast cancer incidence in the U.S. - a conclusion doubted, but not at all refuted by several peer-reviewers.
Mammograms: Each radiation dose matters
Each bit of additional dose matters, because any x-ray photon may be the one which sets in motion the high-speed high-energy electron which causes a carcinogenic mutation.
As Dr. Gofman explains in his book "Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease", the biological damage from a medical x-ray procedure does not come directly from the x-ray photons. The damage comes from electrons, which those photons "kick out" of their normal atomic orbits within human tissues. Endowed with biologically unnatural energy by the photons, such electrons leave their atomic orbits and travel at high speeds and with high energy through their home cells and neighboring cells.
Each such electron does gradually slow down, as it unloads portions of its biologically unnatural energy onto various biological molecules along its path.
One of the molecular victims of this process is, of course, DNA, as well as the structural proteins of chromosomes. According to Dr. Gofman, even though each energy-deposit transfers only a portion of the total energy of a high-speed high-energy electron, these single deposits very often have energies far exceeding any energy-transfer which occurs in a NATURAL biochemical reaction. Such energy-deposits are more like small bombs.
These uniquely concentrated and violent energy-transfers, which result from x-rays, are simply not found in a cell's natural biochemistry. As a result of these 'small bombs', both strands of opposing DNA can experience a level of mayhem far exceeding the damage which metabolic free-radicals generally inflict upon a comparable segment of the DNA double-helix.
According to Dr. Gofman, unlike some other mutagens, x-rays have access to the genetic molecules of every internal organ, if the organ is within the x-ray beam. Within such organs, even a single high-energy high-speed electron, set into motion by an x-ray photon, has a chance (not a certainty) of inducing the types of damage which defy DNA repair. This is why there are no risk-free (no safe) dose-levels.
Again according to Dr. Gofman, x-rays are capable of causing virtually every known kind of mutation - from the very common types to the very complex, from deletions of single nucleotides, to chromosomal deletions of every size and position, and chromosomal rearrangements of every kind. When such mutations do not kill the cell, they accumulate with each additional exposure to x-rays or other ionizing radiation.
Mammograms and the public's beliefs
Mammography is a perfect example of mainstream medicine 'throwing the baby out with the bath water'. Although there is no evidence that it saves lives, that is exactly what everyone is led to believe. I discuss how the media and public relations firms shape the public's perceptions and beliefs in the "Why you believe what you believe" article.
Screening mammograms pose significant and cumulative risks of radiation-induced breast cancer for pre-menopausal women. The routine practice of taking 4 films of each breast each year results in approximately 1 rad (radiation absorbed dose) exposure, approximately 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray.
The pre-menopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, with each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1%, which results in a cumulative 10% increased risk for each breast over a decade's screening. Furthermore, radiation risks are 4 times higher for the 1 to 2% of women who are silent carriers of the A-T ("ataxia-telangiectasia") gene.
In September 2000, University of Toronto epidemiologists published the results of their study on large-scale screening. They found that monthly breast self-examination (BSE) following brief training, coupled with annual clinical breast examination (CBE) by a trained health care professional, is at least as effective as mammography in detecting early tumors, and without the radiation risks.
What can a woman do? Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women and is a real issue. In my opinion, women would be well-advised to avoid mammograms and be diligent about regular breast self-exams.
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(1) Journal of the National Cancer Institute September 20, 2000;92:1490-1499
(2) The Lancet October 20, 2001;358:1340-1342,1284-1285
(3) The New York Times December 9, 2001
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