Some of us have never had a mammogram. Either because we have never gotten around to getting it done, or because we feel the radiation is unsafe or because we know there are effective alternatives to mammogram's high radiation.
Below is an article taken from Dr. Mercolas website, which we feel is very informative and provides an alternative.
Breast self-exams have long been recommended as a simple way for women to keep track of anything unusual in their breasts. Now, after studies have found that such exams do not reduce breast cancer death rates, and actually increase the rate of unnecessary biopsies, many experts are recommending a more relaxed approach known as “breast awareness.”
Breast awareness is really self-explanatory. It means women should regularly check their breasts for changes, but can do so in a way that feels natural for them. In other words, you don’t have to do it on the same day each month, or using any particular pattern.
Simply be aware of what’s normal for you so you can recognize anything out of the ordinary. What should you keep an eye out for?
A new lump or hard knot found in your breast or armpit
Dimpling, puckering or indention in your breast or nipple
Change in the size, shape or symmetry of your breast
Swelling or thickening of the breast
Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
Nipple discharge, especially any that is bloody, clear and sticky, dark or occurs without squeezing your nipple
Changes in your nipple such as tenderness, pain, turning or drawing inward, or pointing in a new direction
Any suspicious changes in your breasts
Are Mammograms a Good Idea?
Aside from breast self-exams, the other mainstay in the U.S. medical system is the mammogram. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women get a mammogram every year or two after age 40.
But I strongly disagree.
The benefits of mammograms are highly controversial, while the risks are well established. Back in 2001, around the time that U.S. health officials widened the use of mammograms to included women over 40 (previously it was only women over 50), a Danish study published in The Lancet revealed some startling data.
The study concluded that previous research showing a benefit was flawed and that widespread mammogram screening is unjustified.
Specifically, the Danish researchers argued that earlier studies in Europe and North America were improperly randomized and that they used a faulty definition of breast cancer survival.
Meanwhile, the technology carries a first-time false positive rate of up to 6 percent. False positives can lead to expensive repeat screenings and can sometimes result in unnecessary invasive procedures including biopsies and surgeries.
Just thinking you may have breast cancer, when you really do not, focuses your mind on fear and disease, and is actually enough to trigger an illness in your body. So a false positive on a mammogram, or an unnecessary biopsy, can really be damaging.
Not to mention that women have unnecessarily undergone mastectomies, radiation and chemotherapy after receiving false positives on a mammogram.
An Amazing Deception
That mammograms are still recommended at all speaks volumes about the state of modern medicine.
Decades ago in 1974, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was warned by professor Malcolm C. Pike at the University of Southern California School of Medicine that a number of specialists had concluded "giving a women under age 50 a mammogram on a routine basis is close to unethical."
Well for starters mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, which poses risks of cancer. Mammography also compresses your breasts tightly, and often painfully, which could lead to a lethal spread of cancerous cells, should they exist.
“The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1 percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade's screening,” points out Dr. Samuel Epstein, one of the top cancer experts.
Dr. Epstein, MD., professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, has been speaking out about the risks of mammography since at least 1992. As for how these misguided mammography guidelines came about, Epstein says:
“They were conscious, chosen, politically expedient acts by a small group of people for the sake of their own power, prestige and financial gain, resulting in suffering and death for millions of women. They fit the classification of "crimes against humanity."”
Not surprisingly, as often happens when anyone dares speak out against those in power, both the American Cancer Society and NCI called Dr. Epstein’s findings “unethical and invalid.”
But this didn’t stop others from speaking out as well.
In July 1995, The Lancet again wrote about mammograms, saying "The benefit is marginal, the harm caused is substantial, and the costs incurred are enormous ..."
Dr. Charles B. Simone, a former clinical associate in immunology and pharmacology at the National Cancer Institute, said, "Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth.”
"The high sensitivity of the breast, especially in young women, to radiation-induced cancer was known by 1970. Nevertheless, the establishment then screened some 300,000 women with Xray dosages so high as to increase breast cancer risk by up to 20 percent in women aged 40 to 50 who were mammogramed annually,” wrote Dr. Epstein.
Safe Screening Methods do Exist: The Benefits of Thermography
But you’re not likely to hear about them from your general practitioner.
“ … The establishment ignores safe and effective alternatives to mammography, particularly trans illumination with infrared scanning,” Dr. Epstein points out.
Most physicians continue to recommend mammograms for fear of being sued by a woman who develops breast cancer after which he did not advise her to get one. But I encourage you to think for yourself and consider safer, more effective alternatives to mammograms.
The option for breast screening that I most highly recommend is called thermography.
Thermographic breast screening is brilliantly simple. It measures the radiation of infrared heat from your body and translates this information into anatomical images. Your normal blood circulation is under the control of your autonomic nervous system, which governs your body functions.
Thermography uses no mechanical pressure or ionizing radiation, and can detect signs of breast cancer years earlier than either mammography or a physical exam.
Mammography cannot detect a tumor until after it has been growing for years and reaches a certain size. Thermography is able to detect the possibility of breast cancer much earlier, because it can image the early stages of angiogenesis (the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size).
By Dr. Samuel Epstein
The updated Federal guidelines, announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on February 21, strongly recommending annual mammography for women over the age of 40, are unlikely to resolve the current headline debate.
The guidelines, surprisingly based on an unpublished analysis by an independent advisory board, ignore evidence on the risks of breast cancer from mammography. Furthermore, they dismiss evidence on the effectiveness of breast self examination (BSE) combined with annual clinical breast examination (CBE).
Screening mammography poses significant and cumulative risks of radiation, particularly for premenopausal women, of which women remain uninformed. The routine practice of taking four films of each breast annually results in approximately 1 rad (radiation absorbed dose) exposure.
This is about 1,000 times greater than exposure from a chest x-ray which is broadly focused on the entire chest rather than narrowly on the breast. The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1 percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade's screening.
Radiation risks are further increased, by some four-fold, for the 1 to 2 percent of women who are unknowing silent carriers of the A-T (ataxia-telangiectasia) gene. By some estimates, this accounts for up to 20 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed annually. All these risks are greater for women in their thirties who are being encouraged to undergo "baseline screening," for which there is no evidence of any future relevance.
Since 1928, physicians have been warned to handle "cancerous breasts with care -- for fear of accidentally disseminating cells" and spreading the cancer. Nevertheless, mammography entails tight and often painful breast compression, particularly in premenopausal women. This may lead to distant and lethal spread of malignant cells by rupturing small blood vessels in or around small undetected breast cancers.
Another serious danger of mammography is the fact that mammography centers are being overbooked as a result of aggressive promotion of premenopausal screening. Resultingly, patients referred for diagnostic mammography, because of suspicious clinical or other findings, are now experiencing potentially life-threatening delays, of up to several months, before they can be examined.
The advisory panel's dismissal of BSE and CBE is inconsistent with the results of a September 2000 publication by leading University of Toronto epidemiologists.
Based on a unique individually randomized control trial on breast cancer mortality in some 40,000 women, it was concluded that monthly BSE following brief training coupled with annual CBE by a trained health care professional is a least as effective as screening mammography in detecting small tumors.
National networks of BSE and CBE clinics staffed by trained nurses should be established to replace screening mammography. Apart from their minimal costs, such clinics would empower women and free them from increasing dependence on industrialized medicine and complicit medical institutions.
It should further be pointed out that the new Federal guidelines ignore the growing and inflationary costs of mammography. Screening all premenopausal women, some 20 million annually, would cost about $2.5 billion, about 14 percent of estimated Medicare spending on prescription drugs.
These costs would be increased some four-fold if the highly profitable machine and film industries succeed in replacing film machines, costing about $100,000 each, with the latest high-tech digital machines costing about $400,000 each. These have been recently approved by the FDA although there is no evidence of improved effectiveness.
Finally, it may be noted that no nation other than the U.S. recommends routine screening of premenopausal women.
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Professor Emeritus Environmental Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Published in the LA Times February 25, 2002
Qualified breast thermography centers
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