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Are Mammograms Really Necessary?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm posting this because a number of similar articles have appeared in the past year or so. I'm only providing it as information for others to consider and comment, not as a factual news item, so please add or clarify any information if you can.
The quoted text has been condensed from the HSI health newsletter from the UK, and it is from an editorial by Jenny Thompson, one of its directors.

"The American College of Radiology advises all women over the age of 40 to get a yearly mammogram. But ACR is a national organization that represents thousands of radiologists, radiation oncologists, and other medical professionals whose livelihoods largely depend on putting your breasts between the plates of a mammography unit."
"...the over-used sales pitch ‘Mammography Saves Lives’ is very misleading to say the least. ... recently several mainstream doctors are finally stepping up and stating the truth about mammograms. ... And just about everything they're saying confirms exactly what we've been saying for years. ..."
"...the main question: Does mammography really save lives?..."
"...Dr. John D. Keen of Chicago's Cook County John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital ... recently wrote this in the American Board of Family Medicine: 'The premise of a near universal life- saving benefit from finding pre-symptomatic breast cancer through mammography is false.'"
"He explains that, statistically, the chance that a mammogram will save a life is very slim. But women under the age of 50 who have a mammogram are 10 TIMES more likely to be over-diagnosed and over-treated!"
"Of course, other hardened souls in the medical mainstream will give you the testimonials of women who absolutely believe mammograms saved their lives when breast cancer was detected. ... But is this an emotional belief, or is it based on fact?"
"Here's what Dr. Karsten Juhl Jorgensen of Denmark's Nordic Cochrane Centre said about the typical woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer: 'There is no way of knowing if the symptom-free cancer she was diagnosed with would ever have developed into clinical disease. And if it was destined to do so, we cannot know if the screen-detection changed the prognosis in her particular case.'"
"Dr. Jorgensen adds that mammography offers "marginal benefits and serious harms." And: "A decision not to get screened can be as sensible and responsible as the decision to get screened."
"And finally, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, gave these estimates for mammogram screening of 2,500 women, beginning at age 50 and continuing for 10 years:
* About 1,000 false alarms
* About 1,250 biopsies
* Five to 15 women would be over-diagnosed and needlessly treated with surgery, radiation, chemo, or a combination of those treatments
"...And through all of that only one life would be saved."
"When asked to imagine what message Dr. Welch would like to see in a mammogram campaign, he replied by saying: "Mammography has both benefits and harms...that's why it's a personal decision. Screening mammography may help you avoid a cancer death or may lead you to be treated for cancer unnecessarily. But both are rare; most often it will do neither."
"I appreciate Dr. Welch's balanced, rational approach. But unfortunately it doesn't allow for the compression contradiction."
"In medical school, students are instructed to examine breasts gently because excessive pressure may cause existing cancer to spread. And men, trust me on this one, the pressure between those two plates on a mammogram unit is excessive and then some!"
"This is the compression contradiction. And it's the very heart of what's wrong with mammography. It physically hurts, and while supposedly saving lives it may actually set in motion a life-threatening cancer. "

Would anyone like to add their (brief) comments on the subject?
Has anyone discovered alternatives?

Member Comments About This Blog Post:

    I have never had a mammogram. Will never have one.

Of course, I don't see allopathic Doctors anyway, so no one hounding me with their misguided crap. I take no prescription drugs, or OTC drugs, either, but I do pay attention to my own body. I am a good listener, in fact, and my body clearly speaks to me. I think everyone's body tells them more than they ever bother to hear.

That's my opinion.

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SYLVIALYNN2 2/17/2011 8:06AM

    I am 63 and had been lack-a-daisyical about getting mammograms every year. I usually got one every 2-3 years. I had been thinking about Thermography. In November 2010, I got a letter from my insurance company saying it had been a while. I already had appointment for yearly physical scheduled and the doctor recommended getting a mammogram. As it turned out, it had some new microcalcifications that looked suspicious. I went for a second diagnostic mammogram, then sonogram (which bruised my rib cage and caused costochondritis--very painful). Then I went for steriotactic biopsy and MRI. Cancer is positive for estrogen and progesterone. I had not felt any lumps or had any signs that would cause me to be concerned. Surgery was scheduled for next week, but I had not been comfortable with the surgeon. Yesterday, I saw new surgeon and have changed doctors.

Bottom line, for those not wanting mammograms, I would suggest getting a thermogram and if that shows concern, then follow up with your doctor. I am glad that I went for the mammogram in my particular case.

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DGILBRIDE1949 2/13/2011 8:39PM

    Well said! And I continue in my belief that mammograms are useless, and like CHRISAHAHN pointed out, a $ scam. I have never had a mammogram, nor will I, and I am 62 years old.

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2BEHEALTHYAGAIN 2/13/2011 12:00PM

    I have had several mammograms (no where near as many as my doctors would have liked for me to have) and had several "false alarms." These called for additional mammograms, ultra-sounds, and at one point scheduled to have a biopsy. Never has anything been wrong, just a "mistake" in reading the films.

For the biopsy I was actually in the procedure room waiting for the doctor to come in when the nurse came in and said "You can get dressed now. Additional testing shows nothing at all there to biopsy." Although I was thankful, I was also upset because I had worried for weeks, taken time off work, my husband took time off work to take me, and in the end there was nothing there and no one could tell me what was even giving them a red flag to begin with.

I did just have a mammogram done a few months ago--the first one in probably 7 or 8 years. Mostly to make my new doctor happy. Will I have another one? Maybe, maybe not.

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SLIMMERJESSE 2/13/2011 10:08AM

    You pick topics close to my heart, for sure. I stopped mammograms a long time ago. For many many reasons. What you probably understand, with this topic and your other one about drugs, is that this field is big business and big lobbies. I am much too cynical about the medical field. My dear cousin (like a sister to me), who passed away last July, had her 20 years of different cancers - on and off. She chose the traditional route and I would never talk anyone out of their convictions. As for me, I feel the treatments are much worse than the disease. BTW, I love NYC and had visited many times when I lived in NJ. Love that city!

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CHRISAHAHN 2/13/2011 9:45AM

    I think it's all a $ scam. Scare women into over testing so they can make more money. I think that's a part of why our health care costs are so out of hand.

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