Mammography is Promoted as Prevention. Is it?

Mammography is promoted as a cancer prevention strategy. Is it?


Can you imagine that 200 million Americans are exposed to 1,000 pharmaceutical ads every year during prime time programming? It is no wonder that so many people believe that not only will we have problems, our best solution is medication…not lifestyle change.

Few of us realize that 50% of status quo medical guidelines today will be revoked within 5 years. We can’t be sure which half is wrong. Sometimes revoking guidelines and making systemic changes takes A LOT longer!

It takes 20+ years for a new discovery to be digested.

Dr. Alice Stewart, an Audrey Hepburn style beauty, entered Oxford, the man’s world of medicine after WWII. At a time when most physicians and surgeons were focused on treating the end result of disease, Alice chose to apply her research and analytical abilities to the etiology or cause of disease in populations.

Dr. Stewart crossed the Rubicon with tireless determination when in 1956, the Lancet journal published findings from her first research study: radiation is linked to cancer incidence.

She had spotted a growing trend of leukemia in children 2 to 4 yrs of age. Dr. Stewart’s survey data revealed that this pattern correlated with the accepted practice of x-raying pregnant women. This was being done to determine the position of the child. Only a small dose of radiation doubled the incidence of cancer in that child. That was 1956.

What year did the AMA in the U.S. publish the recommendation against routine x-rays of pregnant women?

As Alice said: “it takes about 20 years for an unpopular discovery to be digested, and you’re lucky if it only takes that long.” The status quo holds the line.

Dr. Alice Stewart, The Woman Who Knew Too Much, lived a remarkable and fulfilling life into her 90′s without exposing herself to unnecessary radiation.

How can you and I get around the 20 year lag time waiting for the system to digest and implement new information? What do we need to know to make an informed risk/benefit decision when it comes to treatments, tests and prescriptions?

Jerome Groopman MD and Pamela Hartzband MD at Harvard Medical School offer guidance in their book of case studies: Your Medical Mind – How to Decide What Is Right for You

The question they suggest we ask is this: “How many to treat?”

How many people need to have this treatment, or take the drug, or have this test for ONE person to receive the intended benefit?

Research shows that the answer to that question in the case of a statin drug is nearly 300. 300 people need to take the medication for 5 years in order for ONE person to be saved from a stroke (the intended benefit of statin drugs). This number combined with your personal risk factors and possible side affects is required for making a fully informed decision.

How many people need to have this treatment, or take the drug, or have this test for ONE person to receive the intended benefit?

Last year, The Cochrane Institute in Sweden published the work of renowned researcher, Peter Gotzche MD.
Gotzche’s 10 year odyssey of extensive research and fearless analysis is detailed in the textbook “Mammograpahy Screening – Truth, Lies and Controversy”.

His work answers this question:

How many women need to be screened to save ONE woman from dying of Breast Cancer?

Deep breath in…

2,000 women need to be exposed to mammography, radiation of the breast, every year for 10 years to save ONE from dying of breast cancer.

In that group of 2,000 10 women without cancer will be wrongly diagnosed, undergo surgery and treatment for cancer. These women are “breast cancer treatment” survivors. Heart breaking.

200 women within that group will suffer emotional trauma from false positives.

“It takes about 20 years for an unpopular discovery to be digested, and you’re lucky if it only takes that long.” It could be 20 years before mammography protocol is changed.

Mammography is a $4 billion dollar industry. Mammography is “radiation”. Mammography is NOT “prevention.”

A ballpark of $200 billion dollars is the estimated cost of the over treatment of disease in the U.S. The consequences and side effects of overtreatment are not tracked.

Recently the National Cancer Institute has released a panel study recommending that after 30 years of cancer overdiagnosis, scientists call for a redefinition of the disease.

On a personal note. My step-grandmother, Julia, lived a remarkably healthy life in to her early nineties. She was sweet. “God love you” was her tagline. Why was she given a mammogram at 92? The mastectomy that followed was beyond cruel. God help us.

The system sees individuals as data points in need of accepted protocols.

Bottom line: Health protection is a personal effort that requires deep knowledge, courage and sustained commitment. When it seems we miss that mark and are faced with tests, prescriptions, diagnosis and treatment recommendations you must be prepared to make the decisions that are right for you based on your personal risk, the potential side effects and the answer to the question: “How many to treat?”..

Another “unpopular discovery” emerged in 1980: Vitamin D is a cancer preventative. This is still being digested! Managing your blood levels of Vitamin D is an act of health protection and disease prevention.

Informed Self-Care is the way forward.

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