Data compiled over a 40 year span seems to indicate that breast cancer screening through mammography makes no actual impact on breast cancer mortality statistics.
The research was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. It analyzed mortality trends in the Oxford region of England before and after the introduction of England’s “National Health Service Breast Screening Programme” in 1988.
The lead researcher said that, at an individual level, the results of the latest finding don’t rule out that mammograms may be helpful, just that at a larger population level, there is no evidence that mammograms have decreased the mortality rate from breast cancer over a period of almost 40 years.
These new findings are mirrored in previous research out of Denmark that we already discussed on this blog. That study was unable to find evidence that screening from mammograms reduced mortality statistics either.
You may feel that that’s all well and good, but that it can’t hurt to get a mammogram just to be safe.
The thing is, it can hurt.
According to The Cancer Prevention Coalition, who state that the best method of detection is still regular old breast exams, mammography is unreliable and risky:
- Radiation Risks- The cumulative radiation from routine mammography, they say, poses significant risks of initiating and promoting breast cancer. “Thus, premenopausal women undergoing annual screening over a ten-year period are exposed to a total of about 10 rads for each breast. As emphasized some three decades ago, the premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each rad of exposure increasing breast cancer risk by 1 percent, resulting in a cumulative 10 percent increased risk over ten years of premenopausal screening, usually from ages 40 to 50.”
- Cancer Risks from Breast Compression- The CPC goes so far as to suggest that maybe I should be uncomfortable with the discomfort of the squeeze after all. It states, ”Mammography entails tight and often painful compression of the breast, particularly in premenopausal women. This may lead to distant and lethal spread of malignant cells by rupturing small blood vessels in or around small, as yet undetected breast cancers.”
Many women in the Everything Birth community have mentioned that they get breast exams that use thermography instead of mammograms and in addition to self breast exams. What do you use? Do you feel comfortable using mammography as a breast cancer screening method?