Like a good nurse and obedient weebus I have submitted to annual mammograms for a good long while. As far as I know there is no history of breast cancer in my family. None whatsoever. And yet I drank the Kool-aide that an annual mammogram was the way to be healthy; or at least to check on whether my breasts were healthy. It's also a cop-out for those who *say* they do monthly breast exams (or have another to perform the breast touching service) but don't. Let the machine catch it - more accurate, right? Not necessarily so.
I spent a good deal of time reading Jennifer Lunden's recent, lengthy and scientifically grounded article, Exposed, published in the September/October 2013 issue of ORION magazine. A few highlights:
- Not all radiologists are created equal. Who reads the mammogram? A radiologist. Some catch tumors and others don't. But the ones who score high to catch them also run women through the diagnostic testing mill when they have no cancer.
- Mammograms catch slow-growing tumors. Those tumors may grow so slowly as to never be a problem. Monthly breast checks can pick up the fast-growing tumors that appear in-between the annual mammogram.
- Many tumors identified on a mammogram are not likely to develop into cancer. And looking at a mammogram will not tell you which can be which. So, doctors diagnose. And diagnose with tests and other surgical procedures.
- Breast cancer is responsible for less than 4% of female deaths. This is not insignificant; but to show that breast cancer mortality risk is 0.05% for women who undergo a mammogram.
- Radiation increases risk - mammograms over time accumulate radiation which translates to increased risk.
- For years doctors recommended that women begin annual mammograms at age 40. That recommendation has changed to every two years beginning at age 50.
- Our environment with all its toxic ingredients plays a greater role in our health. From nail polish to hair spray, bug killer, contraceptives and artificial hormones we are awash in carcinogens. There are ways we can take control over what we eat and expose ourselves to.
- There is a comprehensive complex of industries with deeply vested interests in breast cancer - not for the cure of it but for the money in it.
- Chemicals cause cancer. Fix your environment.
- Do your monthly breast exam & ask yourself: "Does this feel like this feel like this?"
Take a bit of time to read Lundens article. Once you do, you may wish to click here for a link to a discussion about the article. And decide for yourself.
As for me, my breasts are not for scanning.