Women Remain Uninformed about the Hazards of Mammograms
by Barbara L. Minton (see all articles by this author)
(NaturalNews) It takes a long wait to get a mammogram these days, sometimes up to a month. The waiting rooms are jammed despite the opening of new mammography centers. It is clear that more women than ever are operating under the delusion that mammograms reduce the risk of death from breast cancer, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that radiation causes all types of cancer including that of the breast. The more radiation a woman receives in her lifetime, whether it is during a dental exam, at an airport, or during her yearly mammogram, the more likely it is that she will develop breast cancer. In fact, the spiraling rates of breast cancer seen in the last 25 years may be directly tied to the increased use of mammography.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) began to encourage the use of mammography in the early 1980's. Mammography fit right in with their financial objectives and even the advertising rhetoric at the time that urged "a checkup and a check". For the past 25 years, women have paid the price for compliance to a cancer industry that failed to have their best interests at heart.
The harmful effects of radiation and mammograms have been known for decades
In 1974, while mammography was in its infancy, the National Cancer Institute was warned by Professor Malcolm C. Pike at the University of Southern California School of Medicine that a number of specialists had concluded that "giving a women under age 50 a mammogram on a routine basis was close to unethical". This warning was ignored.
Also in the 1970's, the Director of Biostatistics at Rosewell Park Memorial Institute for Cancer Research, Dr. Irwin Bross, headed a study involving data from 16 million people. This ground breaking study found that the main cause of the rising rates of leukemia was medical radiation in the form of diagnostic medical X-rays. Applying his findings to the breast cancer screening program, Dr. Bross later elaborated that "women should have been given the information about the hazards of radiation at the same time they were given the sales talk for mammography."
In the early 1980's as the mammogram began to be rolled out to women across the country in the face of this research, the NCI and ACS jointly urged annual breast X-rays for women under age 50. Doctors assumed there was good evidence supporting the recommendations and became enthusiastically ordered mammograms for all their female patients, even though they should have know better.
In 1985, the Lancet, one of the five leading medical journals in the world, published an article condemning the mammography recommendations under which "Over 280,000 women were recruited without being told that no benefit of mammography had been shown in a controlled trial for women below 50, and without being warned about the potential risk of induction of breast cancer by the test which was supposed to detect it.
Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, in the early 1990's found that three-quarters of the annual incidence of breast cancer in the United States was caused by earlier ionizing radiation, primarily from medical sources. He did not under estimate the role played by pesticides, synthetic hormones, fatty diets and other environmental stressors, stating "There is no inherent conflict or competition between carcinogens," because they multiply each other's carcinogenic effects. Dr. Gofman abhorred the fact that although X-rays and radiotherapy were among the few environmental contaminants known unequivocally to cause many forms of cancer, they were routinely recommended and used with many cancer patients although there was no proven benefit to survival.
The media and the government health officials stayed silent regarding the mounting evidence that mammograms caused cancer, and the ACS and the NCI continued to recommend mammograms. In 1992 Samuel Epstein, professor at the University of Illinois Medical Center along with 64 other distinguished cancer authorities opposed this status quo thinking and warned the public about what the ACS and NCI were up to.
The next month, the Washington Post broke the story into the mainstream media, exposing what the ACS and the NCI had done to countless women for several years. In this article Dr. Epstein was quoted, "The high sensitivity of the breast, especially in young women, to radiation induced cancer was known by 1970. . . the establishment ignores safe and effective alternatives to mammography." He saw this as a conscious, chosen, politically expedient act by a small group of people for the sake of their own power, prestige and financial gain, resulting in suffering and death for millions of women. He regarded them as committing "crimes against humanity".
In December, 1992, the New York Times published facts about mammography and concluded that women were not being told the truth.
In 1995, the Lancet again blasted the ACS and NCI mammography scam by concluding: "The benefit is marginal, the harm caused is substantial, and the costs incurred are enormous."
Meanwhile, women's health advocate Susan Weed began to publish her findings. In Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way, she reports that "scientists agree that there is no safe dose of radiation. Cellular DNA in the breast is more easily damaged by very small doses of radiation than thyroid tissue or bone marrow; in fact, breast cells are second only to fetal tissues in sensitivity to radiation. As an added risk, one percent of American women carry a hard-to-detect oncogene which is triggered by radiation: a single mammogram increases their risk of breast cancer by a factor of 4-6 times."
Sister Rosalie Bertell, a highly respected world authority on the dangers of radiation wrote that one rad of radiation increased breast cancer risk one percent and is the equivalent of one year's natural aging. "If a woman has yearly mammograms from age 55 to 75, she will receive a minimum of 20 rads of radiation. Women surviving the blast in Hiroshima absorbed 35 rads.
As a result of all this pressure, Dr. Charles B. Simone, a former clinical associate in immunology and pharmacology at the National Cancer Institute finally came out and said "Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth. The annual mammographic screening of 10,000 women aged 50-70 will extend the lives of, at best, 26 of them; and the annual screening of 10,000 women in their 40s will extend the lives of only 12 women per year."
Radiation is not the only danger posed to women by mammograms
Although mammography is widely used for early cancer detection screening, remarkably little attention has been paid to the techniques of breast compression used in the mammography procedure, according to William Campbell Douglass, Jr., writing for the Weston A. Price Foundation. He saw that although the principal of handling cancer very gently so as not to spread it is widely accepted by the medical profession, it doesn't apply to breast screening. During mammography the techniques used are designed for maximum detection of abnormalities without regard to the possible consequences of the action. Douglass notes a survey that found mammographers used as much compression as the patient could tolerate and had no idea how much compression they were using. In fact, the guidelines for mammography state that "adequacy of the compression device is crucial to good quality mammography." That force is 300 newtons, the equivalent of placing a 50 pound weight on the breast.
Cambell reports one animal study that found that the number of metastases will increase by 80 percent if the tumor is manipulated. A human study reported in the British Medical Journal found that death rates were increase by 29 percent in women whose breasts were squeezed during mammography. This is likely to be the result of the rupture of small blood vessels in or around small yet undetected breast cancers. This squeezing into the blood stream of malignant cells is why many women with breast cancer have cancer cells in their lymph nodes.
Mistaken false positive diagnoses are common in pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy because the breast tissue of these women is dense and glandular in nature. These mistakes result in needless anxiety, more mammograms, and highly dangerous biopsies that will cause cancer cells to metastasize if indeed there is a cancer. For the group of women with multiple high-risk factors, such as a strong family history, prolonged use of contraceptives, early menarche, and no history of breast feeding, the cumulative risk of false positives increases to as high as 100 percent over a decade of screening due to this being the group most strongly urged to participate in multiple screenings.
Over diagnosis and subsequent over treatment are major risks of mammography. The unchallenged use of screening has resulted in a huge increase in the diagnosis of ductal carcinoma-insitu (DCIS), a pre-invasive form of cancer which has about 40,000 diagnoses annually. DCIS is composed of micro-calcifications and treated by lumpectomy plus radiation or even mastectomy and chemotherapy. However, over 80 percent of DCIS do not become invasive if left untreated. The mortality rate from DCIS is the same as for women diagnosed and treated early and for those diagnosed later, following the development of invasive cancer.
The Lancet reported that, since mammographic screening was first introduced, the incidence of DCIS, which represents 12% of all breast cancer cases, has increased by 328% for all women, and 200% of this increase is due to the use of mammography. The increase in incidence for women under the age of 40 has gone up over 3000%. Without any screening and intervention, many DCIS situations are able to be positively resolved by the body, leaving women in blissful ignorance of their situation.
Mammograms fail to reduce breast cancer mortality
Despite all evidence to the contrary, the mantra remains that routine mammography screening allows early detection and treatment of breast cancer and reduces mortality. In reality, the vast majority of breast cancers are unaffected by early detection, either because they are aggressive or because they are not. The aggressive cancers will continue to kill women no matter how much surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy they have, unless the source of their cancer is addressed. The cancers that are not aggressive suggest a well functioning immune system that would be compromised by traditional treatments. Cancerous tumors should serve as a wake up call.
Mammograms divert women's attention from addressing the real issues
The mammogram industry has made women passive participant in their own health. If the result of the mammogram is positive, the woman moves on to the next phase in the cancer machine. She has even more mammograms followed by biopsies. If a cancer is found she enters the belly of the machine where she undergoes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. She is prescribed a regime of debilitating drugs to carry her through the rest of her life, and she is spit out the other end of the machine completely ignorant of what caused her to have cancer in the first place and what she can do to try to regain her health.
If the result is negative, she breathes a sigh of relief, schedules another mammogram for next year, and goes about her business as usual. Again, she is given no information with which to empower herself about how to avoid cancer.
In a world where women were well treated, these actions of the cancer industry would be abhorrent. In this kind of world, a woman would be allowed to discover breast irregularities on her own and come to treatment center where a physician would help her examine her physical situation, personal history and psychology, and lifestyle. A treatment protocol would be designed specifically for her based on her situation. This protocol would address how best to restore balance and health to all aspects of her body, mind and spirit.
Samuel S. Epstein, Rosalie Bertell, and Barbara Seaman, "Dangers and Unreliability of Mammography," International Journal of Health Services.
William Campbell Douglass, Jr. "Mammography Madness," The Weston A. Price Foundation.
Chris Gupta, "The Depths of Deceit Mammography," Share the Wealth.
Rcik Ensminger, "Alert - Mammograms Cause Cancer," Rense.com.
James Howenstine MD, "Do Mammograms Cause Breast Cancer?" newswithviews.com.