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Many Breast Tumors Detected on Mammograms are Harmless
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) Many breast tumors found on mammograms are harmless, says a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study concluded that during the past 30 years more than 1.3 million American women have been over diagnosed and over treated with the standard of care, which includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and drugs.
Breast tumors found on mammograms are an instant ticket into the mainstream standard of care. But the research team found that at best, mammograms have only a small affect on the rate of death from breast cancer, and they expose women to excessive cancer-causing radiation.
About 70,000 women each year are over diagnosed and needlessly face the cost and trauma involved, the study authors argue. "Our study raises serious questions about the value of screening mammography," wrote Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, one of the researchers and an epidemiologist and biostatistics professor at the Dartmouth College School of Medicine. "It clarifies that the benefit of mortality reduction is probably smaller, and the harm of over diagnosis probably larger, than has been previously recognized."
Welch along with oncologist Dr. Archie Bleyer, analyzed data to examine diagnostic trends in the incidence of early and late stage breast cancer among women age 40 and older over a 32 year time span. During that period mammography gained tremendous popularity as a screening tool, largely due to the combined efforts of mainstream medicine using it as a patient recruitment device, and companies such as General Electric who made and profited from the sale of mammography machines.
Welch, an expert in screenings and over-diagnosis of many forms of cancer, said it is likely that many of the suspicious cells revealed by mammography would have regressed or never progressed to malignancy.
Mistaken false positive diagnoses are especially common in pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women using replacement hormones, because the breast tissue of these women is dense and glandular in nature, unlike the breast tissue of post-menopausal women who are hormone deficient. These mistakes result in needless anxiety, more mammograms, and often highly dangerous biopsies that may cause cancer cells to metastasize, if there is indeed a cancer. Biopsies certainly injure breast tissue, setting the scene for future cancers.
Another study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that for the group of women with multiple high-risk factors such as a strong family history, prolonged use of contraceptives, and lack of breast feeding history, the cumulative risk of false positives increases to as high as 100 percent over a decade of mammogram screenings. This is due to it being the group most strongly urged to participate in annual screenings.
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 usually treated by lumpectomy plus radiation, or even by mastectomy and chemotherapy. However, over 80 percent of DCIS do not become invasive if left untreated. The mortality rate from DCIS is the same for women diagnosed and treated early as it is for those diagnosed later, following the development of invasive cancer. That mortality rate is about 1%, according to the Cancer Prevention Coalition.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that since mammography screening was first introduced, the incidence of early stage breast cancer in the form of DCIS, which represents 12% of all breast cancer cases, has increased by 328% for all women, primarily due to mammography. The increase in incidence for women under the age of 40 has gone up by over 3000%! This data suggests that without identification through screening and the treatments that inevitably follow, many early stage situations would be positively resolved by the body's own mechanisms, a resolution that does not have horrendous side effects.
In spite of the fact that radiation causes cancer, and the results of such studies as these, it is still insisted that women get yearly mammograms, under the guise that early detection and treatment of breast cancer produces reduced mortality.
Yet in reality, the vast majority of breast cancers are unaffected by early detection, either because they are aggressive or because they are not. Research has shown that the aggressive cancers will continue to kill women, no matter how early they are detected, and no matter how much surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and drugs they have, unless the source of the cancer is addressed. The cancers that are not aggressive suggest a well functioning immune system in a women who is otherwise in fairly good health, a woman whose bodily quest for homeostasis is its best healing agent.
If you really feel you must have a breast screening, make it a thermogram. Better yet, see a physician who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement. Making sure all your hormones are at optimal levels and balanced is the best way to prevent breast cancer.
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About the Author:
Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.
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