Let me begin by saying that I’m not completely opposed to mammograms, as I do think they have value. The goal of this post isn’t to convince women not to receive mammograms, but is instead to make them aware of the potential risks of receiving REGULAR mammograms as a screening process, as well as to make them aware of alternate screening options for breast cancer. The problem is that many women who are 40 and older receive annual testing as a preventative measure, without understanding the potential risks. But what I’m about to discuss will hopefully make you realize that getting an annual mammogram might not be a wise decision.
I decided to write about this after reading a wonderful article in well-known chiropractic journal by Dr. Deborah Pate. While mammograms can detect early stages of breast cancer and thus prevent the disease from spreading, the truth is that we don’t have all of the facts regarding this test. And what many people don’t realize is that this test does emit radiation, which as you do know, carries some long-term risk.
Now some people may argue that the dosage is low. As Dr. Pate stated in the article, “the usual dose of radiation during a mammogram is from 0.25 to 1 rad with the very best equipment”. However, what many people don’t realize is that damage from radiation is cumulative. So what Dr. Pate does is give an example, stating “if a woman has annual mammograms from age 55 to age 75, she will receive a minimum of 20 rads of radiation. By comparison, women who survived the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki absorbed 35 rads.”
What About Those Woman Who Are At High Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?
It might seem to make sense that those women who have a higher risk of developing breast cancer should receive regular mammograms. However, according to the article written by Dr. Pate”, “Screening mammography may be detrimental for women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer.” This makes sense when you think about it, as exposing women who are more susceptible to breast cancer to regular doses of radiation probably isn’t a good idea. Remember that with every procedure it all comes down to risks vs. benefits. So while receiving annual mammograms will help to detect breast cancer before it spreads, and thus prevent women from dying, it can also have the opposite effect, triggering breast cancer in women who might not have developed it in the first place.
Plus, just as is the case with any screening test, one also needs to look at the potential for false-positives: “The cumulative risk for false-positive mammography results has been reported as 21% to 49% after 10 mammography examinations for women in general and up to 56% for women ages 40 to 49 years.” So what this means is that a high percentage of women will receive false positives for every ten mammograms they receive.
As Dr. Pate stated in her article, “2,500 women need to be screened over a 10-year period for one to avoid death from breast cancer.” So 2,500 women need to be screened every single year for a period of ten years to prevent one death from breast cancer. The problem is that they don’t consider the potential consequences of the other 2,499 women who went through the mammograms for this ten-year period. If just a few of these women developed breast cancer or another health issue due to the radiation, then is it really worth it for women to receive annual mammograms?
An Alternative Option To Mammograms
Many women are unaware that there is an alternative option to regular mammograms. Thermography is a method of detecting breast cancer. It uses digital infrared imaging to measure variations in blood vessel activity, which can suggest a pre-cancerous state or a tumor that might not be able to be detected through palpation, or even mammography. Rather than go into great detail about thermography, I’d recommend visiting the website www.BreastThermography.com, which will provide you with plenty of information on this procedure.
This doesn’t mean that thermography should necessarily replace mammograms, as both procedures have value. But because it’s a safer procedure, and perhaps more accurate than mammography, then women might want to consider this procedure first, and then if they receive a positive test, they can obtain a mammogram to verify the pre-cancerous state or tumor.
In summary, mammograms may prevent some women from dying due to breast cancer, but not enough attention is being paid to the consequences of those women being exposed to the radiation from this procedure. Plus, women might also want to look into other safer methods of screening for breast cancer, such as thermography. By the way, for those who found this post to be interesting, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Pate’s article, which you can access by clicking the link below: