Should You Have a Mammogram?

As October comes to a close, the enormous amount of publicity given to Breast Cancer Month wanes a bit. I’m a strong proponent of education, and of preventive health care. But unfortunately, for many women, the fear of breast cancer has now reached epidemic proportions. Fear is a stressor that, left unchecked, can actually contribute to cancer. Stress heightens endocrine and nervous system activity, contributing to allostatic overload and exceeding our ability to adapt, restore energy, and maintain health and balance. This interferes with our body’s natural cancer-protective abilities. It’s important to realize that much of the fear propagated by the media is fueled by misinformation and misunderstanding. For example, studies show that most women believe that their risk of breast cancer is far greater than it really is.

 

 

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12 percent of women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer at some time during their lives. This estimate means that a woman has about a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. This statistic can sound frightening, until you consider that your chance of never having breast cancer is close to 88 percent, or about 7 in 8.

According to the NCI, the risk that a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the next 10 years, starting at the following ages, is as follows:

  • Age 30 . . . . . . 0.44 percent (or 1 in 227)
  • Age 40 . . . . . . 1.47 percent (or 1 in 68)
  • Age 50 . . . . . . 2.38 percent (or 1 in 42)
  • Age 60 . . . . . . 3.56 percent (or 1 in 28)
  • Age 70 . . . . . . 3.82 percent (or 1 in 26)

I share these statistics with you to help bring the issue of breast cancer into perspective. The media and medical industry have created a campaign for screening techniques that I believe are overly aggressive, and that often end up doing more harm than good.

I have counseled hundreds of women with breast cancer, and in no way do I discount the importance of breast exams for the early detection of breast cancer. I respect a woman’s choice in screening techniques and treatments. However, when I am asked my opinion, I advise against the routine use of mammograms.

I am not a fan of mammograms for a number of reasons. First, the research on the ability of mammography to increase survival rates in breast cancer is unclear and not convincing. Second, each mammogram delivers a powerful dose of radiation directly to sensitive breast tissue. Radiation is a potent carcinogen, the DNA-inducing damage from radiation is cumulative, and the damage may not manifest for many years. This means that beginning the process of yearly mammograms starting at age 40 may induce cancer at age 70—30 years after a woman’s first mammogram.

I believe it is unconscionable that conventional medicine strongly promotes diagnostic tests such as mammograms, pushing the agenda that these tests are essential for the detection and prevention of disease, but with absolutely no clinical data to support these potentially harmful procedures. In fact, independent researchers evaluating decades of studies have found that the widespread practice of mammography, instead of saving lives, has primarily led to over-diagnosis and overtreatment. In other words, small, non-aggressive tumors that would never become life threatening (or that might disappear if left alone) are found through routine mammograms, and then aggressively treated. But more than 20 years of routine mammograms have made virtually no progress in the outcome of more virulent forms of breast cancer, even when tumors are detected earlier. The bottom line is that mammograms have not delivered on the promise of improving the detection and treatment of life threatening breast cancers.

What mammograms do deliver is radiation, and that’s something that we don’t need. Radiation is dangerous to our health—on this topic, everyone agrees. We are exposed every day to radiation from many sources, from background radiation in the environment to exposure from X-rays, CT scans, smoking, and airline flights. Obviously, some radiation exposure is unavoidable. But any time we can avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation will benefit us in the long term. In my opinion, encouraging women to have yearly mammograms simply adds up to too much radiation.

Fortunately, we have a better, safer alternative to mammography. Using a non-invasive diagnostic technique called elastography, breast tissue is evaluated using an ultrasound technique. With this technique, doctors can determine instantly whether a lump is cancer, with no invasive biopsy required. Elastography is safer, more accurate, and is able to distinguish harmless lumps from malignant ones with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

Preliminary results look very promising, and if the results hold up in a larger study, elastography could save thousands of women from the waiting, cost, discomfort and anxiety of a breast biopsy. Until elastography is widely available, I recommend breast self-examination, ultrasound, and MRI’s as alternatives to mammograms. Thermography, another screening tool, detects heat that may indicate inflammation associated with cancer. Although I think there is a place for thermography, I do not believe it is an adequate replacement for the other screening tools I mentioned above.

I am often asked about herbs and supplements that support breast health. In a future post, I will delve more deeply into this topic. My favorite Natura formulas for breast health and breast cancer prevention include:

  • Cell Guardian, 2 – 3 caps daily
  • Botanical Treasures, 4 – 6 caps (1/2 to 1 tsp) daily
  • ImmuCare II, 4 – 6 caps (1/2 to 1 tsp) daily
  • CV-Res-Q, 2 – 4 caps daily
  • Meno-Breeze, 2 – 4 caps daily
  • Vital or Power Adapt 2-3 caps (3-5 mls) daily
  • Smoothie with 1 scoop Beyond Whey and 1 tsp. Beyond Essential Fats

Additional Support As Needed:

For weight loss and insulin regulation:

  • Thermofit, 2-3 caps 2x daily
  • IG Sensitizer, 2 – 3 caps 1 – 2x daily

For extra immune system support:

  • ImmuCare I, 4 – 6 caps (1/2 to 1 tsp) daily
  • Throat & Gland Spray, 6-7 sprays 2x daily

For anabolic/adaptogen support:

  • Night Gain, 3 – 4 caps daily
  • Botanabol, 4 – 6 caps daily
  • Amino-Max, 3  – 4 caps daily

5 Comments

  1. Donnie, thank you so much for this article!! I was diagnosed with DCIS 3 years ago(at age 44) from a mammogram and feel I have been harmed emotionally and physically by “standard of care” conventional treatments. I have since chosen a more holistic health path — one that does not include mammograms for monitoring my breast health. I realized that if I continued as medical Drs, surgeons, radiologists and oncologists were recommending, I would have 19 mammograms by the time I’m 50! That I am sure would initiate invasive cancer in a sensitive breast where there has already been 11 mammograms, 3 surgeries and a core needle biopsy!! For anyone who would like to read more of my story/blog on this topic: http://dcis411.com/2012/03/13/mammograms/
    I am now working on creating a nonprofit that will help women make informed choices and also support organizations who are working towards breast cancer PREVENTION and risk reduction such as the Mederi Foundation. (http://mederifoundation.org/) With great respect and gratitude, Donna Pinto

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Donna. Glad to hear you’re taking a more holistic health path, and thank you for the work you’re doing to support organizations such as the Mederi Foundation. Best wishes to you.

  2. Hi Donnie, what do you think of Breast Thermographyas as a breast screening modality? I live in Portland and I haven’t been able to locate elastography being offered here. Also, I read that MRI’s are good but can also detect TOO much “abnormalities” and that can lead to further unnecessary testing. I read that it’s not good for women with too much breast density. What are you thoughts on this? I’m 52 and it’s really hard to know what to do besides your great suggestions on prevention.
    Thanks!
    Terry

  3. Woops! I see that you did address Thermology in your article, however do you know of any practitioners offering elastography in Oregon?
    Thanks again.
    Terry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.