Mammogram Misses

Mammograms are practically the poster-child for breast cancer, but, Dr. Fuhrman contends they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. He talks about it here:
The American Cancer Society, The American College of Radiology, and the National Cancer Institute still support the discredited notion that mammograms “prevent” breast cancer. Mammograms are entrenched in the practice of conventional medicine. The politics and economics within the world of medical policy-making govern the messages that are disseminated to the public. The fact is—at best—mammograms detect, they do not prevent. To use the word prevent in the same sentence as mammograms is a tremendous distortion of reality. The only proven approach to prevention of breast cancer is the adoption of lifestyle modifications that help stop cells from becoming cancerous in the first place.
And now this, it seems that even top doctors are missing the signs of breast cancer on mammograms. Kyung M. Song of The Seattle Times reports:
Researchers examined nearly 36,000 mammograms read by 123 radiologists and found that a woman's odds of getting accurate results vary widely depending on who is doing the reading. The worst radiologists missed nearly 40 percent of the tumors and misidentified 8.3 percent of their patients as having nonexistent cancers.

The top performers tended to be doctors at academic medical centers and those who specialized in breast imaging. But even then, the cancer went undetected in one of five women who turned out to have cancer, while 2.6 percent had false-positive results…

…"Mammography is not perfect. But it's still the best thing at detecting breast cancer," said Diana Miglioretti, an associate investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies and the study's lead author.

Traditional mammograms, taken with low-dose X-rays, are notoriously difficult to read. Benign and malignant lesions can look alike. A speck of tumor can be hard to discern from the surrounding breast tissue. Accurate readings rest largely on a radiologist's skill.
Again, Dr. Fuhrman is not thrilled about mammograms. In fact, he believes all the hubbub about mammograms is largely based on fear. He explains:
More than a decade ago, the American Cancer Society recommended that women get a baseline mammogram at age thirty-five, followed by annual screenings beginning at age forty. The campaign to position mammograms as the key weapon in the fight against breast cancer was initiated by the American Cancer Society, with a number of medical groups joining the fray. Instilling fear about breast cancer was a campaign strategy. To achieve this, the American Cancer Society used greatly exaggerated numbers and faulty math to overstate breast cancer risk. They admitted they did this—and continue to do it—to promote mammograms.1 They still trumpet the claim that women face a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes.
He’ll also tell you that the idea of “early detection” is essentially a myth, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s more from Dr. Fuhrman:
Mammograms never detect “early” breast cancer. By the time a cancer is visible to the human eye on a mammogram, it is already teeming with over a hundred billion cancer cells—which have been there for at least eight years—and it already has had ample time to spread to other parts of the body. In the majority of cases, the cancer has spread outside the breast, but the small groups of cells that have traveled to other parts of the body may be undetectable for years.
Now, to make matters worse, according to Dr. Fuhrman, mammograms might actually CAUSE breast cancer. Here’s a quote:
Unfortunately, mammography can be the cause of a woman’s breast cancer. When calculating its supposed benefits, we need to include in the equation the percentage of women whose breast cancer was promoted by the radiation exposure from the mammograms themselves. The younger you are when the mammograms are performed, the greater the risk of radiation-induced cancer.2,3 According to Michael Swift, M.D., chief of medical genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, between 5,000 and 10,000 of the 180,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year could be prevented if women’s breasts were not exposed to radiation from mammograms. Over a million American women carry the gene for ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), which makes them unusually sensitive to the ionizing radiation in X rays and five times more likely to develop breast cancer.4
Personally, if I had boobies, I’d think twice about getting them squished—EEK!
1. Blakeslee S. Faulty Math Heightens Fears of Breast Cancer. New York Times March 15, 1992, Section 4, page 1.

2. Brenner DJ, Sawant SG, Hande MP, et al. Routine screening mammography: how important is the radiation-risk side of the benefit-risk equation? Int J Radiat Biol 2002 Dec;78(12): 1065-7.

3. Jung H. Is there a real risk of radiation-induced breast cancer for postmenopausal women? Radiat Environ Biophys 2001 Jun;40(2):169-74.

4. Den Otter W, Merchant TE, Beijerinck D, Koten JW. Breast cancer induction due to mammographic screening in hereditarily affected women. Anticancer Res 1996 Sep- Oct;16(5B):3173-5.
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emmy - December 18, 2007 4:41 PM

Specifically what lifestyle changes would you make that you think would keep you from growing cancer cells? At best, the lifestyle changes that are discussed in connection with breast cancer only offer a slight risk for some women. You could keep your weight down and if you a post menopausal woman developing an estrogen sensitive cancer, that might offer a slight protection. But then, being overweight seems to protect pre-menopausal women. Then again you could not drink alchohol, but non-drinkers get breast cancer. You could breast feed your babies that you had a very young age, but those women also develop breast cancer. The truth is that there are no smoking cigarettes with breast cancer. There is no lifestyle choice you can make that is going to predispose you to developing breast cancer or offer you significant protection from it. So, just what is it that you are preposing?

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