There has, and probably always will be much controversy over mammography. I have not personally experienced a mammogram, but I have heard “the dread” from many women revolving around their experience or upcoming screening.
Why the controversy? What’s the risk? Why would my doctor recommend a screening that would be harmful? Why wouldn’t I want to detect a cancer as early as possible…..that is the reason to get screened right?!?
I do want to clarify that I am simply providing information here! This decision to mammogram, thermogram or rely on faith & fate is 100% YOUR decision!!! Whatever your decision should be, please know that I want it to be YOURS to make! Confident, educated, well-thought-out decisions leave us with no regrets. That is my hope in this effort of compiling information, no regrets! I have no vested interest in the cancer industry, OBGYN malpractice claims, imaging center profits nor insurance company gains. I only have interest in WOMEN! Hard-working, all-deserving, love-filled women! We are worthy of unlimited information and the freedom to be informed! Please follow this blog with that in mind.
Briefly, A Few Reasons that Justify the Controversy
Mammography is achieved with the use of radiation. Some sources compare the dose of one mammogram to 1,000 times that of a chest x-ray. It is well known that radiation creates an increase in free radicals, which can ultimately begin the cancer cascade.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, one of the top cancer experts, stated:
“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.”
The new 3D technology has been scrutinized repeatedly for the increased radiation the patient is exposed to. This is an exerpt from USA Today, October 9, 2012:
‘The procedures [3D tomosynthesis] give women twice as much radiation as a standard mammogram, notes surgeon Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. That’s because women who get 3-D imaging still undergo traditional 2-D mammography, as well.
In addition to radiation exposure, there is a undoubted coorelation to over-treatment and misdiagnosis. Even if you only consider the patient’s well-being, it is staggering to think of all the “scares” from a finding that turns out to be nothing. Beyond that, the amount of treatment that is recommended based on “questionable” findings is also a concern.
A new study published in The Lancet shows that for every life saved by mammography screening, three women will be overdiagnosed and treated for a cancer that might never have given them trouble in their lifetimes. The study panel describes:
- 99 percent of patients diagnosed with a screen-detected breast cancer will undergo surgery
- About 70 percent will receive radiotherapy
- 70 percent will receive adjuvant endocrine therapy, and
- 25 percent will undergo toxic chemotherapy
As was revealed in a 2011 meta-analysis by the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, mammography breast cancer screening led to 30 percent overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which equates to an absolute risk increase of 0.5 percent.
Another thing to consider is the pressure used to conduct the mammogram is intense. So not only is it painful, but it could potentially spread the cells of an undiagnosed cancer.
Please also consider the new recommendations for breast screenings!!! Previously in the US, women over the age of 40 were encouraged to be screened annually. In 2009 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated their recommendation, advising women should wait until the age of 50 to get screened, and only get a mammogram every other year thereafter. If you are 40-50 years of age, please be aware of this! It may save you the radiation exposure of 10+ screenings!
Unfortunately, money makes the world go around. Given most doctors and imaging institutions have the patient’s best interest in mind, there is still the elephant in the corner! How much revenue does just one extra mammogram per patient generate? Take a gander at your bill from your last mammogram. From what I have found each screening has a value of approximately $200. Consider how much you paid out-of-pocket and how much the insurance company paid to the provider or image center. Now multiply that times every woman over the age of 50 you know. Now take that number and multiply it by 28.5 years (average life expectancy in the US is 78.5 years). I’m sure you came up with a large number. From an industry vantage point, you might see how cutting their recommendations in half would also cut their revenue in half. Consider COST in your decision as well. Combined with risks, is mammography the best decision for you?
You Have Options!!
Thermography is an age-old technique that has been used to detect cellular change in many types of tissues. Specifically breast thermography has the ability to detect the thermal signs of blood vessel changes (neoangiogensis), suggesting the development of a pre-cancerous as well as cancerous condition. Consequently, breast thermography may be the first signal that rogue cells, uncoordinated by our body, may be building its blood supply and becoming bigger and/or spreading.
Consider the following from Women’s Natural Health Center website:
- No radiation, no health risks, no pain, no IV access needed, and non-invasive
- Non-contact- no painful compression
- Preferable for large, dense, fibrocystic breasts, implants, and pregnant or nursing mothers
- Early stage cancers too small to be detected by palpitation exam or mammography may be signaled by infrared imaging
- Breast thermography (and adjunctive hormone or other testing) may suggest certain types of cancer and hormone imbalances that are not detected by other diagnostic tools
- Earliest method of breast cancer detection known because it monitors physiology and thus the health of the breast over time.
- May reduce number of surgeries for non-cancerous tumors
- A positive thermogram represents the highest known risk factor for future development of breast cancer, 10 times more significant than family history
- Compared to mammography, 7 out of 10 times infrared imaging is the first alarm that something is happening
- Hormone imbalance can be detected by certain vascular patterns and hormone testing
The Women’s Natural Health Center recommends using breast thermography in addition to mammography. This is yet another decision that is YOURS to make 🙂
There is a really well-written and detailed article done by Dr. William Cockburn with the International Academy of Clinical Thermology. He describes the difference between thermography and mammography:
Thermography is a test of PHYSIOLOGY. It does not look at anatomy or structure, and it only reads the infra-red heat radiating from the surface of the body.
Mammography, on the other hand, is a test of ANATOMY. It looks at structure. When a tumor has grown to a size that is large enough, and dense enough to block an x-ray beam, it produces an image on the x-ray or mammographic plate, that can be detected by a trained radiologist. A fine needle biopsy is then generally performed to identify the type of tissue in the mass, to determine if atypical or cancerous cells are present.
We now come to an important point. Neither thermography nor mammography can diagnose breast cancer. They are both diagnostic tests which reveal different aspects of the disease process and allow for further exploration.
I think this is an important point to recognize in the decisions revolving around cancer screening. Afterall, that is what all the melody over the melons is about 🙂
You Have an Influence!
I would like to finish with a well-rounded list of helpful life practices that can help your body to harmonize and ultimately deter free radicals from jumping on the cancer train! I share these words of wisdom from Dr. Mercola!!!
Breast Cancer Prevention Strategies
Cancer screening is NOT to be misconstrued as a form of cancer prevention. Preventing breast cancer is far more important and powerful than simply trying to detect it after it has already formed, which is why I want to share my top tips on how to help prevent this disease in the first place.
In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that about 40 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices.11, 12 I believe these estimates are far too low, and it is more likely that 75 percent to 90 percent of breast cancers could be avoided by strictly applying the recommendations below.
- Avoid sugar, especially fructose. All forms of sugar are detrimental to health in general and promote cancer. Fructose, however, is clearly one of the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.
- Optimize your vitamin D. Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). If you have cancer, your vitamin D level should be between 70 and 100 ng/ml. Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects. I suggest you try watching my one-hour free lecture on vitamin D to learn more.
Remember that if you take high doses of oral vitamin D3 supplements, you also need to increase your vitamin K2 intake, as vitamin D increases the need for K2 to function properly. See my previous article What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium for more information.
Please consider joining one of GrassrootsHealth’s D*Action’s vitamin D studies to stay on top of your vitamin D performance. For more information, see my previous article How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help You Optimize Your Health.
- Get plenty of natural vitamin A. There is evidence that vitamin A also plays a role in helping prevent breast cancer.13 It’s best to obtain it from vitamin A-rich foods, rather than a supplement. Your best sources are organic egg yolks,14 raw butter, raw whole milk, and beef or chicken liver.
- Lymphatic breast massage can help enhance your body’s natural ability to eliminate cancerous toxins. This can be applied by a licensed therapists, or you can implement self-lymphatic massage. It is also promotes self-nurturance.
- Avoid charring your meats. Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide — a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted or fried — has been found to increase breast cancer risk as well.
- Avoid unfermented soy products. Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.
- Improve your insulin receptor sensitivity. The best way to do this is by avoiding sugar and grains and making sure you are exercising, especially with Peak Fitness.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. This will come naturally when you begin eating right for your nutritional type and exercising. It’s important to lose excess body fat because fat produces estrogen.
- Drink a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily. Please review my juicing instructions for more detailed information.
- Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer.
- Curcumin. This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful adjunct in the treatment of breast cancer. It shows immense therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.15 It’s important to know that curcumin is generally not absorbed that well, so I’ve provided several absorption tips here.
- Avoid drinking alcohol, or at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
- Breastfeed exclusively for up to six months. Research shows breastfeeding can reduce your breast cancer risk.
- Avoid wearing underwire bras. There is a good deal of data that metal underwire bras can heighten your breast cancer risk.
- Avoid electromagnetic fields as much as possible. Even electric blankets can increase your cancer risk.
- Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Breast cancer is an estrogen-related cancer, and according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer rates for women dropped in tandem with decreased use of hormone replacement therapy. (There are similar risks for younger women who use oral contraceptives. Birth control pills, which are also comprised of synthetic hormones, have been linked to cervical and breast cancers.)
If you are experiencing excessive menopausal symptoms, you may want to consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy instead, which uses hormones that are molecularly identical to the ones your body produces and do not wreak havoc on your system. This is a much safer alternative.
- Avoid BPA, phthalates and other xenoestrogens. These are estrogen-like compounds that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk
- Make sure you’re not iodine deficient, as there’s compelling evidence linking iodine deficiency with breast cancer. Dr. David Brownstein,16 author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, is a proponent of iodine for breast cancer. It actually has potent anticancer properties and has been shown to cause cell death in breast and thyroid cancer cells.
For more information, I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein’s book. I have been researching iodine for some time ever since I interviewed Dr. Brownstein as I do believe that the bulk of what he states is spot on. However, I am not at all convinced that his dosage recommendations are correct. I believe they are too high.
I welcome you to begin your own exploration of the ins & outs of breast cancer, screenings and prevention. It is a topic worth dedicating some of your time to! Please feel free to comment with questions or leave your feedback. I hope this was informative and left you empowered with decision-making skills to enhance your journey, leaving you with no regrets!!!
In Loving Service,
Dr. Taryn Lowery