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Mammograms: What For, Exactly?
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Jan 23, 2005
If you're still going for a mammogram screening once every year or two years, please consider the following:
A routine mammogram screening typically involves four x-rays, two per breast. This amounts to more than 150 times the amount of radiation that is used for a single chest x-ray. Bottom line: screening mammograms send a strong dose of ionizing radiation through your tissues. Any dose of ionzing radiation is capable of contributing to cancer and heart disease.
Screening mammograms increase the risk of developing cancer in premenopausal women.
Screening mammograms require breast tissue to be squeezed firmly between two plates. This compressive force can damage small blood vessels which can result in existing cancerous cells spreading to other areas of the body.
Cancers that exist in pre-menopausal women with dense breast tissue and in postmenopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy are commonly undetected by screening mammograms.
For women who have a family history of breast cancer and early onset of menstruation, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer with screening mammograms when no cancer actually exists can be as high as 100 percent.
A large-scale screening study published in September of 2000 by epidemiologists at the University of Toronto revealed that monthly breast self-examination following brief training, coupled with an annual clinical breast examination by a trained health care professional, is at least as effective as mammography in detecting early tumors, and also safe.
Since we know that properly performed breast exams are just as effective at detecting early tumors as mammography, how can we justify the use of screening mammograms when we know that all forms of ionizing radiation increase the risk of developing cancer and heart disease?
With all of the controversy surrounding the usefulness of mammograms, it's easy to lose focus of what's really important: what are you going to do if you develop breast cancer?
If you rely on the recommendations of a conventional health care provider, you are likely to begin with surgery and follow it up with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
About three years ago, a family friend asked for my help after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After reviewing her records and understanding her situation, I told her that I thought it was a good idea to go ahead and have her tumor surgically removed and then to make significant changes to her daily food choices to support her recovery. I also told her that in no circumstances would I recommend that she have chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.
Shortly after having surgery, she called to tell me that her family doctor was strongly recommending that she see a specialist for chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
I gave her doctor a call and asked him why he was recommending chemotherapy and radiation. His reply was that his recommendation was in line with the standards of practice outlined by the College (of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario), and that if he didn't make this recommendation, he could be sued for malpractice.
Although I was a bit startled by his reasoning, I went on to ask him what sort of dietary recommendations he planned on giving his patient to help support her recovery. "Well, there's no evidence that diet has any effect on breast cancer, so she can eat anything she wants," he responded.
Although I was already well aware of some of the big problems in our health care system, talking with this doctor firmly convinced me that the average person with no medical background has a solid chance of being killed by medical treatments rather than passing on from natural, degenerative causes. Does this sound like an obvious statement to you? If not, please spend some time reading through our articles archive to learn how to best take care of your own health.
With screening mammograms and all other screening and diagnostic tests, you owe it to yourself to always ask: what will I do if this test comes back positive? Hopefully, your research will lead you to learning about how everyday food and lifestyle choices are the main determinants of your health. Why wait for a mammogram, x-ray, or blood test to bring bad news before you begin to take care of your health each day?
Perhaps you'll learn to experience the power and freedom that come with forgetting about many of the screening measures out there and instead, using your time and energy to prepare more nutritious meals, get more rest, work on worthwhile projects, and spend meaningful and fun times with family and friends.
Getting back to our family friend with breast cancer, she spent an entire year following her surgery eating a nutrient-dense, mainly raw, plant-based diet. She made and drank fresh vegetable juices every day. She took a high quality probiotic on a daily basis. I did acupuncture treatments for her on a regular basis to strengthen her immune system. About six months following her surgery, she added raw, organic eggs to her diet three times a week. One year following her surgery, she added wild fish and cod liver oil to her diet. She made sure that she got plenty of fresh air and sunshine whenever she could. She took time off of work and spent time every day praying and reading inspirational books. Through it all, we continuously worked at making sure that her tissues were not faced with excess estrogen and estrogen-like compounds.
It has been three years now since her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, and I'm grateful to report that even her medical doctor declares her to be free of cancer.
Please note: The information on mammograms at the top of this article is from an article written by Samuel Epstein, M.D.
Also, a good pictorial guide to performing a breast self-examination can be found here.
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