Radiologists are finally supporting what we’ve been saying for years…that mammograms don’t often work.
One expert radiologist just told the FDA’s mammography panel that mammograms miss breast cancer in at least 40 percent of women.
And she’s not the only expert saying mammograms don’t work. Findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that mammograms actually help less than 2 percent of women.
But the real problem isn’t that mammograms don’t work…but that they do a lot more harm than good.
For a start, they cause serious pain and discomfort for millions of women and can result in unnecessary biopsies and treatment.
But that’s not even the worst part.
Emerging research shows that mammograms may actually cause breast cancer. In other words, the test that’s being performed to flag a disease is actually causing it!
Mammograms Don’t Detect Cancer in At Least 40% of Cases
Some experts believe that mammograms miss cancers in women with dense breasts. Because some women have dense tissue, mammograms can’t distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells. And it’s a big problem because at least 40 percent of women have dense breasts. Worse…women with dense breasts are the most likely to develop breast cancer.
Unfortunately plenty of women don’t even know they have dense breasts.
In some cases, an ultrasound exam can show breast cancer when mammograms miss it.
Despite this recent evidence the FDA panel has decided to take no further action on the matter…as usual.
One-in-Five Women Subjected to Unnecessary Biopsies
There’s plenty of other evidence that shows mammograms don’t work.
A study was recently published in the industry-leading New England Medical Journal. The research comes from Dr. Mette Kalager of Oslo University Hospital.
She looked at over 40,000 women and compared the survival rates between those who got mammograms…and those who didn’t. She found a two percent difference between those groups.
“The reduction in mortality (is) lower than we expected,” she says.
It’s quite a lot lower actually, when you consider the World Health Organization estimates mammograms cut breast cancer death by 25-30 percent.
Other experts have had a chance to study those findings and they say mammograms do a lot more harm than good.
Dr. Gilbert Welch leads research at Dartmouth Medical School in England. He breaks down what those percentages really show…and what harm mammograms actually cause.
He says 2,500 women have to go through painful mammograms…just to save one life. Out of those 2,499 other women who get no benefit, 1,000 will be told by their doctor that there’s something suspicious on their exam, leading to unnecessary stress. 500 of those women will wind up getting unnecessary biopsies. And 15 of them will actually get treatment for something that was never going to bother them.
We think it’s time that the medical community stops relying on a screening system that simply doesn’t work…and subjects women to unnecessary pain and procedures.
And plenty of medical experts agree.
“It’s not the great lifesaver that people think it is,” says Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt, who leads research at Georgetown University. “It’s not a magic bullet.”
She’s not the only one.
Dr. Rita Redberg is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She’s also the editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine.
She says there’s no way she’ll be getting a mammogram anytime soon, despite being in her 50s.
She says there’s too much research that proves mammograms show up too many false positives that result in biopsies that show them to be nothing at all. At the same time they miss real tumors that ultrasounds and other digital imaging techniques often catch.
All in all she says there’s no medical evidence that show mammograms do any good at all.
“There are many areas of medicine where not testing and not treating actually result in better health outcomes,” she says.
Mammograms May Cause Breast Cancer in Women Most at Risk
In the case of mammograms we think she’s absolutely right.
Two recent studies both show that mammograms increase your risk of breast cancer.
The first comes from Dr. Marijke Jansen-van der Weide. She leads the radiology department for Groningen University medical center in the Netherlands.
Her findings show that the radiation from mammograms can cause breast cancer in women with a family history of the disease. She looked at how radiation affects these high-risk women and backed up her own research by pulling in the results from seven other studies on mammograms and radiation.
High-risk women getting mammograms were 1.5 times more likely to get breast cancer than high-risk women who didn’t get them. The statistics were worse with repeated mammograms. High-risk women getting mammograms from the age of 20 were 2.5 times more likely to get the disease than their counterparts who didn’t get them at all.
“Low-dose radiation increases breast cancer risk among these young high-risk women,” reported Dr. Jansen-van der Weide. “Repeated exposure to low-dose radiation should be avoided.”
She’s not the only expert saying that.
Researchers at John Hopkins University made the same discovery when they looked into mammograms. They published their findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and warned that radiation from mammograms triggers tumors in women with a family history of breast cancer.
What makes all of this even more tragic is that it’s these high-risk women who are the most likely to get mammograms from an early age…because they know it’s in their family. And it’s those very mammograms that may wind up giving them the disease.
If you’re still not convinced, there’s one final bit of evidence you should be aware of.
A report that was published in a 2008 edition of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine found that breast cancer rates soared in four Norwegian countries…only after women started getting regular mammograms.
So What Can You Do Now?
If you’re getting regular mammograms…stop! These screenings may be the very things that give you breast cancer.
You need to find an alternative way of looking after your health.
As we told you earlier, some doctors are saving lives using digital imaging and ultrasound screenings.
You may also want to consider Computed Tomography Laser Mammography. This technique uses laser light and thermal heat to give an internal image of each breast. It can detect tumors and cancer and has no problem imaging dense breasts.
Most importantly, this method doesn’t use radiation and is much less painful.
We’ll be bringing you the latest information and findings on these and other techniques s in a future issue of Health Watch.
Wishing you good health,
Editorial Director, NHD “Health Watch”