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Friday, October 14, 2016

To mammo or not to mammo?

I mentioned before that mammograms have become a controversial topic. Should I or shouldn't I? I think it's important to know both sides so you can decide for yourself. Afterall, I've declared true awareness and education to be my mission for breast cancer awareness month.

Just remember, I'm not a doctor so I'm totally unqualified to give medical advice. I'm just a warrior in the trenches sharing my research. As a longtime homeschool mom with a great love for learning, I typically dig deep, compare information, and always consider the source of that information. And I pray. Do with it what you will, my friends.

Just a few mammography facts to consider for yourself:

☆ One of the largest and longest studies of mammography to date, involving 90,000 women followed for 25 years, found that mammograms have absolutely NO impact on breast cancer mortality. Read more from the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

☆ Ionizing radiation (that's what mammograms are) used to discern breast tumors is a risk factor for the development of breast cancer. Say what?? And, if you do have a malignant tumor, the crushing compression (mammogram) of your breast could cause it to spread. Dr Mercola talks about it in this article. It can be even riskier for women with the BRCA gene mutation because they are typically advised to have more frequent mammograms, thus exposing them to more radiation when they are already genetically prone to be at risk for developing breast cancer. How does this make sense?

☆ Despite what certain organizations and colorful campaigns would have you believe, mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. They detect tumors, once they are sizable enough to detect, but they do not prevent you from getting tumors in the first place. (Source: Love, Susan, Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, 3rd ed. , Perseus Publishing: MA. 2000; p. 125.) I have this book if you're interested in reading it.

☆ Mammograms can miss more than 25% of all breast cancers,known as “false negatives.” Additionally, “false positive” results can occur when a mammogram finds something in the breast that, on biopsy, proves not to be cancer. Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information.  I can tell you from personal experience that the stress and anxiety these women experience is identical whether cancer is confirmed or not.

☆ Other options, often unknown include MRIs and thermography. MRIs give a more detailed image than a mammogram with less radiation exposure but they typically aren't recommended because they cost more. I had an MRI done to get a clearer picture of what was going on, at the suggestion of my integrative oncologist. It revealed a second tumor that the mammo and ultrasound did not. It also showed the spread to my lymph nodes. Thermographic scanning, digital infrared imaging, is another option to consider, either as an alternative or in addition to conventional methods. Here's a great comparison of these options.

There is so much to consider yet you'll only hear the pink campaign's clarion call to get a mammogram this month. Next Friday Oct 21 is National Mammogram Day. I hope that between now and then you'll take the time to do some research and decide for yourself.

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