Can Mammogram Radiation Cause Breast Cancer?

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Are Mammograms the Best Breast Cancer Test?

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Women in America and other industrialized countries are convinced that regular mammograms are crucial to detecting breast cancer. Enormous funding and research has swayed the public into believing this to be true. Yet despite this, mammography has a very strong opposition in many quadrants of the medical and natural health communities. If you discover one of the warning signs of breast cancer, the question remains: are mammograms the best test for breast cancer?

Mammograms provide an X-ray image of breasts in which doctors will look for evidence of growing tumors that may go unnoticed during a routine physical exam. Needed to produce the image, X-rays expose the patient to ionizing radiation.

Risks and dangers come with mammography use including the exposure to radiation, financial burden, and the rate of inaccuracies. Until 2001, women over the age of 50 were urged to receive annual mammograms. This is when American health officials changed their recommendations to include all women over 40 years of age. Yet back in July of 1995, the British medical journal, The Lancet, published that “the benefit (of mammograms) is marginal, the harm caused is substantial, and the costs incurred are enormous…”

Risk of “False Positive” Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

A “false positive” on a breast cancer test triggers an enormous amount of emotional stress on both patients and their family members. One research team analyzed mammogram diagnostics from 60,000 women. False positives were detected in 70% of the detected areas of concern.

The tremendously high rate of false positive diagnosis has many doctors skeptical of the efficacy of mammography. Furthermore, false detection results in invasive and avoidable biopsies. Upon further testing from these biopsies, 70-80% of detected “tumors” on mammograms revealed no presence of cancer.

Effects of a False Positive Diagnosis

The emotional trauma that comes with believing you have cancer is enough to trigger and accelerate illness in the body. False positive diagnoses are often followed up with unnecessary mastectomies, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. These treatments further damage an individual’s health by creating physical, emotional, and economic burdens.

Unnecessary Radiation Exposure

Annual mammograms expose a woman to a significantly high amount of ionizing radiation. We are all exposed to ionizing radiation produced from the natural world around us. Our bodies can manage this small amount of radiation, but when high doses of exposure occurs annually there are health risks involved.

If you have ever had a spinal or chest X-ray performed, the radiation that you were exposed to was 1,000 times less than the radiation that is required to complete one series of mammograms to two breasts. Many experts agree that this quantity of radiation actually increases an individual’s risks of breast cancer. Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD, proposes that the likelihood of breast cancer raises 2% each year a mammogram is performed.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has stated that for every 15 cases of breast cancer mammography identifies, it may actually cause 75 breast cancer diagnoses. For this reason younger women are especially at risk for the dangers involving mammography testing. In fact, studies have shown that young women tested annually have up to a 52% increase in breast cancer related deaths.

Mammograms Stimulate Cancer Growth

Since the onset of mammography, the rate of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) has elevated by 328%. DCIS is a type of early stage breast cancer. Researchers have discovered the oncogene AC which is extremely sensitive to radiation. Women with the oncogene AC are at an even higher risk when they undergo mammography testing. It is estimated that 10,000 individuals whom carry the gene will die of breast cancer annually as a consequence of mammography.

Another way mammograms induce cancer growth is by compressing the patient’s breasts. This action releases cancerous cells into circulation thereby increasing the risk that the malignancy will spread systemically.

A former clinical associate at the NCI in immunology and pharmacology, Dr. Charles Simone, has strongly advocated against mammography for breast cancer screening. Dr. Simone said, “Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth.”

Thermography: A Better Breast Cancer Test

I firmly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Somehow our society has missed the fact that we should strive every day to live an anti-cancer lifestyle. Rather, we are told that we should only screen our health each year while simultaneously we are led to believe it is okay to live a lifestyle destructive to our health.

When the inevitable results with a positive cancer diagnosis, we are treated like a victim. Instead we should be taught how years of abuse has led to the problem.

It has been my choice to live an anti-cancer lifestyle and avoid the dangers involved with “testing for disease.” If you have not followed this same healthy lifestyle, I recommend thermography testing for a safe and effective way to screen for cancer.

The Gold Standard for Detecting Breast Cancer

Thermography is a new technology that measures inflammation in the body. This makes it especially well equipped to detect the growth of cancer cells. This tool is far less invasive than mammography and is also more effective.

Degenerative disease is characterized by inflammatory pathways in the body, and cancer is not excluded. Unfortunately, disease must typically have already developed in the body for it to be detected by much of today’s medical procedures. Instead of looking for the originating cause, the medical community focuses on the effect of a problem in the body − the cancer. Advanced health care practitioners use diagnostic testing and methodology that searches for the cause of physiological abnormalities in the body.

How Does Thermography Screen for Cancer?

Thermography scans the body, measuring surface temperature and presenting this information as a digital image. This digital map illustrates heat patterns in the body and is tremendously accurate. Patterns can detect infection and abnormal tissue conditions.

Unlike mammograms which only analyze anatomical changes such as a lump, thermograms provide detailed information on vascular function in the breast. When blood flow increases to specific areas of the body, the temperature of that region also raises. Cancerous cell growth is represented by increased circulation resulting from infection and inflammation. Thermographs can screen for subtle physiological abnormalities that accompany disease before a large mass or lump will reveal its presence on a mammogram.

Thermal Asymmetry Indicates Abnormalities

Ideally, the body should be in a state of thermal symmetry. Areas of asymmetry can indicate problems and are analyzed specifically for underlying pathology. Cancerous growth thrives with elevated blood flow and requires a high demand for nutrient supply. The body cannot identify the metabolic difference between cancer cells and healthy cells, resulting in the increased supply of blood cells around the active cancer cells.

Thermography can identify this abnormal blood flow long before cancer growth becomes a mass detectable during a routine breast exam. Thermography is estimated to identify cancer growth 10 years before a mammogram shows a tumor.

Breasts Typically Appear Purple

Normally the breasts do not generate much heat. Healthy breasts appear purple on a thermographic image indicating low heat levels. Spots appearing red, orange, or yellow should be looked at further as these colors may indicate the presence of cancer.

More than 250,000 women participated in studies detailing thermography screening over the last 30 years. These large, long-durational studies have demonstrated a sensitivity and specificity of 90%. From these research groups it has been shown that a woman is 22 times more likely to develop breast cancer when she has consistently abnormal thermograms.

Reliability and Safety of Thermograms as a Breast Cancer Test

Information provided by thermograms is reliably accurate and provides objective data. The devices are painless, non-invasive, and provide quick results.

The high concentrations of ionizing radiation produced from mammograms make it one of the most dangerous medical devices used. Thermograms emit zero ionizing radiation and instead use safe infrared technology.

What to Expect With a Thermography Test for Breast Cancer

During your first thermography session you will provide a baseline reading referred to by practitioners as the “thermal signature.” Typically it will be recommended that you receive a second screening three months later to detect changes. The vascularity and blood flow pattern is then analyzed between the two readings. Going forward it’s recommended the patient receive annual thermography tests.

The results are given in a professionally written report by a radiologist who is trained in thermographic studies. Thermography testing is not approved for diagnostic interpretation, so you will not get a definitive diagnosis from the test.

Instead, you will see that abnormal readings will be noted as “at some or at strong risk,” whereas normal findings are listed as “at low risk.”

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Mammograms Again Found to Have No Impact on Mortality

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Do annual mammograms save lives?

Several studies over the past few years have concluded that mammograms do not save lives, and may actually harm more women than they help, courtesy of false positives, overtreatment, and radiation-induced cancers.

According to research published in 2010, the reduction in mortality as a result of mammographic screening was so small as to be nonexistent — a mere 2.4 deaths per 100,000 person-years were spared.

Another study published in The Lancet Oncology in 2011 demonstrated, for the first time, that women who received the most breast screenings had a highercumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far less screenings.

Now, researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth have published a paper in which they present similar conclusions.

Mammograms Have No Impact on Breast Cancer Mortality

After analyzing cancer registry data from 16 million women in 547 counties across the United States, they found “no evident correlation between the extent of screening and 10-year breast cancer mortality.”

The researchers concluded that mammograms primarily find small, typically harmless, or non-lethal tumors, leading to widespread overdiagnosis.

As explained by Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and author of the book, How We Do Harm, the term “overdiagnosis” in cancer medicine refers to:

“…a tumor that fulfills all laboratory criteria to be called cancer but, if left alone, would never cause harm. This is a tumor that will not continue to grow, spread, and kill. It is a tumor that can be cured with treatment but does not need to be treated and/or cured.”

Also, echoing results found in 2011, higher screening rates were associated with higher incidence of breast cancer. As reported by The LA Times:

“For every 10-percentage-point increase in screening rates, the incidence of breast cancer rose by 16 percent… That worked out to an extra 35 to 49 breast cancer cases for every 100,000 women…

The researchers also examined breast cancers according to their stage at diagnosis, a marker of a tumor’s aggressiveness. More screening was associated with a higher incidence of early-stage breast cancers but no change for later-stage tumors, according to the study.

How can this be?

‘The simplest explanation is widespread overdiagnosis, which increases the incidence of small cancers without changing mortality,’ the study authors wrote. ‘Even where there are 1.8 times as many cancers being diagnosed, mortality is the same.’”

To Screen or Not to Screen?

Clearly, the issue of breast cancer screening using mammography can be a deeply emotional one. Virtually all discussions relating to cancer are. A recent article in Forbes Magazine paints a vivid picture of most women’s fears, and warns of the dangers of not getting diagnosed in time.

While it needs to be an individual choice, I believe it can be valuable to take a step back and look at the big picture, which includes population-based statistics such as those presented above.

It’s also well worth investigating all available options and, of course, weigh the risks and benefits associated with each. As reported by Care2:

“[The] study authors… point to a balance of benefits and harms and believe mammography is likely most favorable when directed at women who are at high risk — not too rarely and not too frequently.

They also believe watchful waiting, rather than immediate active treatment, is probably a good option in some cases.”

A main objection to mammography is the fact that it uses ionizing radiation to take images of your breasts, and it’s a well-established fact that ionizing radiation can cause cancer.

So the idea that the “best” way for you to avoid dying from cancer is to expose yourself to cancer-promoting radiation at regular intervals for decades on end (in order to catch the cancer early) really falls short on logic — especially since there are non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques available.

Results published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2012 show that women carrying a specific gene mutation called BRCA1/2 are particularly vulnerable to radiation-induced cancer.

Women carrying this mutation who were exposed to diagnostic radiation before the age of 30 were twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared to those who did not have the mutated gene.

They also found that the radiation-induced cancer was dose-responsive, meaning the greater the dose, the higher the risk of cancer developing. The authors concluded that:

“The results of this study support the use of non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging) as the main tool for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations.”

Mammograms Do Not Reduce Mortality Beyond That of Physical Examination

Last year, one of the largest and longest investigations into mammography was published.

It involved 90,000 women who were followed for 25 years, and it sent shockwaves through the medical industry when it reported that the death rates from breast cancer were virtually identical among women who got annual mammograms and those who did not.

Moreover, it found that mammography screening had harmful effects. As reported by The New York Times:

“One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.”

At the outset of the study, the women, aged 40-59, were randomly assigned to receive either five annual mammography screens, or an annual physical breast examination without mammography.Over the course of the study, 3,250 of the women who received mammography were diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 3,133 in the non-mammography group.

Of those, 500 women in the mammography group, and 505 in the control group, died from the disease. However, after 15 years of follow-up, the mammography group had another 106 extra cancer diagnoses, which were attributed to overdiagnosis. According to the authors:

“Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available. Overall, 22 percent of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed, representing one over-diagnosed breast cancer for every 424 women who received mammography screening in the trial.”

The rate of overdiagnosis (22 percent) is virtually identical to that found in a 2012 Norwegian study, which found that as many as 25 percent of women are consistently overdiagnosed with breast cancer that, if left alone, would cause no harm. Other studies that have come to similar conclusions include the following:

  • In 2007, the Archives of Internal Medicine12 published a meta-analysis of 117 randomized, controlled mammogram trials. Among its findings: rates of false-positive results are high (20-56 percent after 10 mammograms)
  • A 2009 meta analysis by the Cochrane Database review13 found that breast cancer screening led to a 30 percent rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which increasedthe absolute risk of developing cancer by 0.5 percent.  The review concluded that for every 2,000 women invited for screening throughout a 10 year period, the life of just ONE woman was prolonged, while 10 healthy women were underwent unnecessary treatment.

 

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Mammograms can also miss the presence of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers present at the time of screening. Your risk for a false negative is particularly great if you have dense breast tissue, and an estimated 49 percent of women do. Mammography’s sensitivity for dense breasts is as low as 27 percent, which means that about 75 percent of dense-breasted women are at risk for a cancer being missed if they rely solely on mammography. Even with digital mammography, the sensitivity is still less than 60 percent.

Considering the mortality rate from breast cancer is virtually identical whether you get an annual mammogram or an annual physical breast exam, it suggests physical examination can go a long way toward detecting a potential cancer. It certainly makes sense to familiarize yourself with your breasts and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to address it with your doctor, even if you’re not due for an annual checkup yet.

  • Lump in the breast (keep in mind that breast lumps are common, and most are not cancerous)
  • Pain or unusual tenderness or swelling in the breast
  • Retracted nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • Vaginal pain
  • Dimpling of the breast surface, and/or “orange peel” skin texture
  • Visible veins on the breast
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (located in the armpit)
  • Unintentional weight loss

 

To learn about Breast Cancer prevention tips, and to read Dr. Mercola’s full article click here.