The Mammography Dilemma

In the early 1970’s mammography began to be actively promoted as a means of detecting breast cancer. However, as early as 1976 , John C Bailar, then the editor of the National Cancer Institute Journal questioned the procedure by writing, “The possible benefits of mammography have received more emphasis in the clinical literature than have its defects,” adding, “mammography may eventually cause more deaths from breast cancer than it prevents.” Since this statement there have been little if any research to study this concern.

Two large studies raise questions about the validity of mammography. One meta-analysis done in 1997 showed that screening women age 40-49 resulted in an increase in deaths from breast cancer for the first ten years after beginning screening. Another Canadian study involving 40,000 women age 50-59, with a 13 year follow-up showed breast cancer mortality to be equal between one group receiving annual mammograms and another group doing physical examinations only.

A group of radiologists at the University of Guttingen, Germany have been so bold as to say that women with an inherited, increased breast cancer risk should avoid frequent and early mammogram screening. They suggest that the low-dose X-ray used in mammograms are nearly three times as effective at mutating genes in human cells as conventional /X-rays.

Unfortunately, women are not given this information which can help them make an informed decision as to whether or not mammography is best for them.

Terry Pfau DO HMD

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