Mammograms -Who Needs Them?
Excerpt from Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
By Susun S. Weed
Mammograms aren't safe
Professor Anthony Miller, Toronto National Cancer Institute, says cancer
cells may be squeezed into the bloodstream under the pressure of the
mammographic plates.11 Screening mammograms
are unsafe other ways, too: they expose sensitive breast tissues to
radiation, and they increase your chances of having a biopsy and being
overtreated for carcinoma in situ.
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. And the younger the
breast cells, the more easily their DNA is damaged by 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.12
The usual dose of radiation during a mammographic x-ray is from 0.25
to1 rad with the very best equipment; that's 1-4 rads per screening
mammogram (two views each of two breasts). And, according to Samuel
Epstein, M.D., of the University of Chicago's School of Public Health,
the dose can be ten times more than that . Sister Rosalie Bertell-one
of the world's most respected authorities on the dangers of radiation-says
one rad increases breast cancer risk one percent and is the equivalent
of one year's natural aging.13
If a woman has yearly mammograms from age 55 to age 75, she will receive
a minimum of 20 rads of radiation. For comparison, women who survived
the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima or Nagasaki absorbed 35 rads. Though
one large dose of radiation can be more harmful than many small doses,
it is important to remember that damage from radiation is cumulative.
Many women born in the 1930s and '40s-who are now considering the benefits
of postmenopausal mammographic screening-have already absorbed quite
a bit of radioactivity into their breast tissues from fallout from the
atomic bomb tests of the 1950s. (See page18.)
The American Cancer Society claims that the radiation danger from a
screening mammogram is no more than that caused by natural radiation
in the environment. Not so. The amount of radiation from even one breast
x-ray is 11.9 times the yearly dose absorbed by the entire body, according
to Diana Hunt, former saleswoman for an x-ray manufacturing company,
UCLA Medical Center graduate, and senior staff x-ray technologist for
20 years.14 (See page 18 for a list of
rads absorbed while skiing in Denver, flying in an airplane, and other
activities often cited as comparable to mammographic screening.)
A study published in the October 20, 1993 issue of Journal of the National
Cancer Institute found a statistically significant increase in the incidence
of breast cancer following radiation treatment of various benign breast
diseases even among women older than 40 at the time of the first treatment.
You increase your risk of being overtreated for breast cancer whenever
you have a screening mammogram. Eight out of ten masses detected by
screening mammogram are false alarms, but if something is seen in your
mammogram you'll be urged to undergo a biopsy.
Read the rest of Chapter 5 (click on any
Mammograms - Who needs
can't tell if there's cancer.
don't replace breast self-exams.
screening increases risk of breast cancer mortality in premenopausal
Why I haven't
had a baseline mammogram.
mammograms lead to overtreatment.
mammograms don't increase your chances of being cured . . . or of surviving
don't find cancer before it metastasizes.
mammograms life saving for women over 55?
screening mammograms aren't cost effective to society nor are they safe
a less risky way to participate in screening mam-mography?
distract us from the need for societal commitment to true prevention.
other ways to find early-stage breast cancers?
don't promote breast health.
Decide to Have a Mammogram.
more Excerpts from Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
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