Are Mammograms Effective?
Research on 500,000 women worldwide seems to suggest that through current breast cancer screening techniques there are many more unnecessary breast cancer treatments administered than previously thought. Recently a report was published in the Cochrane Library that seems to point to the fact that women’s fears about unnecessary breast cancer treatment are in fact quite necessary. Researchers reviewed international studies that have been done on almost 500,000 women worldwide. What they found reflects every woman’s fear. Researchers found that mammograms as a breast cancer screening tool, did not reduce the number of women dying from the disease. In fact, for every one woman who had her life prolonged, 10 women underwent unnecessary treatment.
This raises doubts about the effectiveness of mammography as a breast cancer screening tool. In fact, a screening pioneer in the UK raised doubts about even the NHS program’s future. But the real concern here is that mammography was leading to diagnoses of women with breast cancer who would have survived without treatment, meaning they were undergoing unnecessary treatment including standard insistence on chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomies.
Most cancers of the breast actually begin in the milk ducts of the breast. Yet only a fifth of cancers picked up by screening are in the milk ducts of the breast. Some of these cancers will progress to more serious forms, while others will not. But the reality is that there is no way of predicting what will happen in any individual cancer case. So women need to decide with their doctors whether or not to risk going without treatment or to go ahead with treatment that may be completely unnecessary and the accompanying side-effects.
Also found in the study was that a further 200 women out of every 2,000 experienced received a false positive — a result that indicated a cancer was present but was later found to be wrong. The stress and anxiety created by this for the women and their families can wreak havoc with the endocrine system, the nervous system, not to mention their work, their lives and their future.
Women need to understand both the benefits and the harm that can be created by these types of screenings. Usually material produced for women by the American Cancer Society, hospitals, doctor’s offices and mammography centers are provided by the manufacturer’s of mammography equipment. These tend to emphasize the benefits and leave out information on the harm that can be caused, or the incidence of false positives.
Women need to be informed not just about mammography, but also about alternatives, such as Regulation Thermography. This system has been available in Europe for years and is actually approved in the U.S. by the FDA, making it a payable screening option for most insurance companies. Thermography evaluates heat differential in tissue areas such as the breast. These variations in tissue temperature can point to areas that have a different structure than the surrounding tissue. Cysts and tumors can be detected up to a year ahead of a mammogram. And unlike mammograms, thermograms are completely comfortable and painless, regardless of the size of a woman’s breast tissue.
Utilizing both mammography and thermography can increase detection effectiveness to more than 95%, allowing both women and their doctors to have more information available at a significantly earlier time than with mammography alone.