Viewpoints from a Naturopathic Physician
What Every Woman Needs to Know About Mammograms
Mammograms are x-rays of the breast that are used in screening for breast cancer. The current conventional medical recommendations are that all women aged 50-74 should get a mammogram every two years in order to screen for breast cancer. However, one of the largest and longest studies of mammography to date, involving 90,000 women followed for 25 years, found that mammograms have absolutely NO impact on breast cancer mortality. In other words, the death rate from breast cancer was virtually identical between those who received an annual mammogram and those who did not. In fact, the latest research shows that in addition to having little to no diagnostic value, mammograms can actually cause a number of problems:
- The false-positive rate ranges from 20-56 percent, which leads to unnecessary cancer treatment with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation when there was no threat to the woman's health whatsoever. Moreover, the associated chemotherapy and radiation can subsequently increase the risk of getting cancer.
- Mammograms are linked to increasing women's risk of breast cancer. Research published in The Lancet Oncology in 2011 showed that women who received the most breast screenings had a higher cumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far fewer screenings. Annual mammograms actually cause 20-25 cases of fatal cancer for every 100,000 women getting the test. Beware of the “new and improved” type of mammogram called 3D tomosynthesis, which will expose you to about twice the amount of ionizing radiation (linked to cancer) compared to a standard mammogram.
- Mammograms often fail to detect cancer in the 49 percent of women with high breast tissue density leading to a false sense of security in women who may actually have cancer.
Because of these research findings, I think mammograms should be avoided.
Healthy Alternatives to Mammograms
There is a type of breast imaging called thermography, which is completely harmless and highly accurate. It measures the infrared heat emitted by your body and translates this information into thermal images. Thermography does not require mechanical compression or ionizing radiation, and it can detect signs of physiological changes due to inflammation and/or increased tumor-related blood flow approximately 8-10 years before mammography or a physical exam can detect a mass. Visit this website for more info and to find a center near you.
For tips on how men and women can prevent cancer read this article.
Special thanks to Dr. Kendra Pearsall for contributing this article. Dr. Kendra Pearsall is a Naturopathic Physician practicing in Longmont, Colo., and a member of the Liberty HealthShare Physician Review Board.
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