The Mammogram Debate: Facts vs. Vested Interests

From the May 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

The business of medicine is rarely deterred by facts. The findings of the Danish researchers did nothing to change the position of the American Cancer Society, The American College of Radiology, and the National Cancer Institute. These institutions 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.

Controversies in the medical literature rarely reach the public. In the case of mammography, doctors almost never admit to patients that the benefits from mammograms, if any, are marginal at best. This does not mean that some women will not be diagnosed with breast cancer early enough to have a curative lumpectomy. For that woman, the mammogram will have extended her life. However, for every woman whose life is extended, there are almost an equal number who would have lived longer had their breast cancer not been discovered and treated. For those women, the medical treatments will shorten, not lengthen their lives.

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