Are Mammograms Safe?

breast cancer awareness ribbon

The American Cancer Society defines breast cancer as a “malignant tumor that starts from the cells of the breast.”

The breast is made up of milk glands and fatty tissues, and cancer can occur in any of these tissues. Cells in our bodies are constantly reproducing, and when they start to reproduce at an abnormal rate, they cause a tumor to form.

If cells from a malignant tumor enter the lymphatic system they can infect other tissues, this is termed as metastasizing.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer risk increases with age and genetics also play a large part. Certain mutagenic tendencies can be inherited, but there are also some lifestyle factors that affect the risk. These include the use of artificial hormones (oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy), exposure to radiation, frequent alcohol use, poor diet, toxic overload, obesity and lack of exercise.

Another risk factor is breast density. Women with dense breasts are more likely to develop breast cancer because they have less of the lower risk fatty tissue and more of the higher risk glandular tissue [1]. This dense tissue also makes it more difficult to detect abnormalities using mammograms.

Detection Using Mammograms

Increased awareness, self examinations and technological advances may have contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of breast cancer cases in the United States in recent years.

woman planting flowers(mammogram risks)

The ability of mammograms to detect the development of cancer increases as women get older [2], although many women use their perceived risk factor to determine whether they should get regular mammograms or not [3].

Mammograms are difficult even for medical practitioners to read and interpret, and while they do help detect some breast abnormalities, they might actually be increasing the occurrence of breast cancer [4].

Did you know that mammograms may cause breast cancer?

Recent research has shown that repeated exposure to mammograms may act as an independent risk factor for breast cancer. While many medical experts still recommend regular mammograms, which take an x-ray like photograph of the breast, to detect small tumors, opposition to the practice is growing.

radiation

It is worthwhile to consider that ionizing radiation has decreased from 5-10 rads in the 1970s to 1 rad today. According to Dr. Frank Rauscher each 1 rad of exposure increases breast cancer risk by one percent, which could become significant over many years of exposure.

This combined with the fact that mammograms do not detect all tumors, and with the fact that mammograms result in biopsy testing, even for benign lumps, make mammography an expensive (financially and in terms of cost to your health) and unreliable option for detecting breast cancer.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, evaluated breast cancer mortality statistics in a group of women following five annual mammograms starting at various ages, and found: Women who underwent five mammograms between the ages of 24 and 29 would have an additional 26 breast cancers per 10,000 women due to the radiation. Mammograms between the ages of 30 and 34 would produce an excess of 20 additional cancers and, between 35 and 39, an additional 13 cancers.

You have options

Tumors that grow in the breast are fed by blood vessels generated by the cancer, this means that those blood vessels are not controlled by the automatic nervous system like the rest of the blood vessels in the breast. A non-invasive and non-squishing method for detecting masses in the breast is available.

This method, called thermography, uses thermal imaging to detect “hot spots” in the breast. Thermographic detection of these spots is more reliable than mammography because the blood flow pattern changes long before the tumor is large enough to be detected by x-ray.

Mammogram Options

This early detection allows patients to more closely monitor their breasts and implement lifestyle changes that could keep the tumor from growing or even give them time to heal themselves completely before the tumor becomes unmanageable [5]. A positive thermography should be seen as an opportunity, and even a nudge toward, serious preventative measures.

New research is constantly being done and new technology constantly developed to detect and treat breast cancer. You can’t control all of your risk factors, like age, gender or genetics, but you can have a serious influence on risk factors from your diet, environment, exercise regime and mammograms.

I have been against the use of mammograms for over 10 years and truly believe that the radiation may induce the proliferation of cancerous cells. Thermography has come a long way and is a much safer way in my opinion to have the breasts screened. I recommend going to OmniBody Scan for more information or to find a practitioner in your area. The OmniBody Scan is a liquid nitrogen camera that uses sensitive medical infrared lenses to detect temperature variations in the breast tissue. And, it does this without the harmful effects of radiation.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Martin LJ, Boyd NF. Mammographic density. Potential mechanisms of breast cancer risk associated with mammographic density: hypotheses based on epidemiological evidence. Breast Cancer Res. 2008;10(1):201. doi: 10.1186/bcr1831. Epub 2008 Jan 9. Review.
  2. Keen JD, Keen JE. How does age affect baseline screening mammography performance measures? A decision model. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2008 Sep 21;8:40. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-8-40.
  3. Gross CP, Filardo G, Singh HS, Freedman AN, Farrell MH. The relation between projected breast cancer risk, perceived cancer risk, and mammography use. Results from the National Health Interview Survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2006 Feb;21(2):158-64. Epub 2005 Dec 22.
  4. Carney PA, Yi JP, Abraham LA, Miglioretti DL, Aiello EJ, Gerrity MS, Reisch L, Berns EA, Sickles EA, Elmore JG. Reactions to uncertainty and the accuracy of diagnostic mammography. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Feb;22(2):234-41.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits. Mayo Clinic. 2012 December 12.

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  • http://www.fertilehealthy.com/blog Hanlie

    Thank you so much for posting this article! I’m not a doctor, but I have also been questioning the use of mammogram for some time now. Especially as it’s often being advertised as a form of cancer prevention!

    I am excited about what I’ve read about thermography so far and will definitely spread the word, especially since it’s becoming more and more evident from research that lifestyle factors play a much larger role in determining breast cancer risk than genetics.

    Great article! I’ll send people this way!

  • http://www.StayHealthyandWell.com Melissa Wood, ND

    Thanks for posting this great article, Dr. Group. As a fellow Naturopath, I agree completely with this article. I can’t tell you how many women have come to our clinic with breast cancer, after repeated Mammograms every year on the advice of their physicians. It is such a tragedy! We also recommend the radiation-free Thermography and have been utilizing this great test for years.
    Thanks for all you do to help others be healthy!
    Melissa Wood, ND

  • http://www.dowlingdennis.net Greg Dennis

    This is terribly misleading. Thermography is not widely available. While it may become more available, in the meantime mammograms are the best, safest, most scientifically proven way to detect breast cancer. You are scaring away women from a proven lifesaving technology. And the stats you cite are meaningless, as mamms are NOT RECOMMENDED for most women yonger than 40. {Note: while I represent breast health companies, none of them do mammograms .]

  • http://marco-za.blogspot.com/2007/08/google-earth-flight-simulator.html Marcos

    I wouldn’t say it’s terribly misleading. There are numerous studies published on Pubmed that cite Mammograms have many risks associated with them. The bottom-line on Mammograms is that you should get multiple opinions and take them all with a grain of salt. Not just the doctor that wrote this blog, and not just your doctor that diagnosed you.

    If there’s a better answer, such as thermography, why not get the word out about it, so that it grows in popularity and becomes more widely available.

  • Maria

    I have always felt the compression and irradiation of breast tissue to be INSANE; thus, I have always questioned the true safety of mammograms. I will never have a mammogram because I will never allow my breasts to be so brutilized for a screening procedure. I am also a 15 year survivor of renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) which has cost me a kidney why the hell do I want to risk exposure to that much radiation yearly??

    I am also looking into thermography as a clinic has open in my area!! I am also spreading the word on thermograms and that we have a choice!

  • toni

    I am 63 years old. The last mammogram I had was two years ago. I have very dense benign breast. I am not going to get another mammogram. I have had them for over twenty three years and I don’t feel they are safe and that reliable. Do you think I am wrong?

  • Medicexchange

    Thermography is not widely available. While it may become more available, in the meantime mammograms are the best, safest, most scientifically proven way to detect breast cancer.

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