ALTERNATIVES TO MAMMOGRAPHY
October 10, 2007
Rose Marie Williams, MA
President of the Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
A candid discussion about environmental factors affecting health more than inherited genes, with suggestions for reducing toxic exposures around the home.
(The CAC is a 501©(3) grassroots organization dedicated to: raising awareness about health risks associated with pesticides and other pollutants; encouraging use of safer practices; protecting public health. Video sales support these goals.)
In the Aug/Sept 2007 TLDP, this column discussed the increased risk of cancer from x-rays and mammograms. Modern medicine has become so completely dependent upon x-ray technology for diagnosing or evaluating physical conditions and disease that the health risks associated with multiple exposures are too often ignored.
The scientific community acknowledges that high radiation exposure kills, while low level exposures damage cells causing impairment of cell division, repair mechanisms, and hormone function. Radiation exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, leukemia, and thyroid cancer. The risk of breast cancer is greater in women who received radiation therapy for tuberculosis, scoliosis, post partum breast swelling and benign breast disease. “Even ‘routine’ chest or dental x-rays carry some risk of cancer,” according to Janette D. Sherman, MD.(1)
Each medical specialist strives toward excellence in diagnosing and treating patients and is quick to order x-rays for more accurate analysis of a patient’s condition. High tech computer programs are increasingly being used in conjunction with modern x-ray equipment, but the modern health-care paradigm fails to record the number of x-rays and the amount of exposure each patient receives in a year, a decade, or a lifetime. We do a better job of keeping track of the oil changes in our car, than of the x-ray exposure to our bodies.
It is possible for a woman to have a series of dental x-rays, hip or knee x-rays, and mammograms in the same month. One acquaintance told me the technician doing her mammogram informed her that the pictures did not come out well, and repeated the entire procedure a second time exposing the same vulnerable tissue to twice the amount of radiation during one appointment.
When concerned individuals inquire about possible risks from x-rays the quick response is that we get more radiation exposure from an airplane flight to Paris. The average patient accepts this as assurance that all is well with medical x-ray exposure. But, is it? A passenger flying from New York to Paris, France, might be exposed to five millirads of cosmic radiation dispersed to the entire body. Radiation from a mammogram is concentrated on one area of the body with an average exposure of approximately 300 millirads for each image taken. A milliard represents one-thousandth of a rad.(2)
Questionable or suspicious areas may result in additional exposures from follow-up x-rays. This could add up to a total dose of 3,000 rads or more. Suspicious areas may show up more frequently in some women subjecting them to follow-up x-rays several years in a row. This clearly is not equivalent to the exposure received from a NY to Paris flight (300 to 3,000 rads from x-rays versus five rads for a plane trip).
The public is seldom, if ever, informed that exposure to low level radiation from any source generates cumulative risks, and genetic damage from x-rays also accumulates.(1)
Many women have had the misfortune of experiencing this cumulative effect. Exposure to chest x-rays prior to age 20, and for women with BRCA 1 / 2 mutations there appears to be a greater risk for developing breast cancer by as much as 54%, when compared to women who were not exposed to chest x-rays.(2)
David E. Goldberg, PhD, Chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, recommends that “young women who are members of families known to have BRCA 1 / 2 mutations may wish to consider alternatives to x-ray, such as MRI.”(3)
It is not known how many women carry the BRCA 1 / 2 gene mutation, because not all women have been tested. What is known, is that the incidence of breast cancer is rising for all women in the United States and in other industrialized nations. Exposure to increasing amounts of everyday chemicals, less nutritious foods, tobacco or alcohol use also increase a women’s risk of developing breast cancer. No woman is immune. If professionals are recommending that BRCA 1 / 2 individuals might want to avoid the greater risk to breast tissue posed by radiation exposure from mammograms, why shouldn’t all women heed this advice?
Mammograms are considered the gold standard in breast cancer detection thanks to a sweeping public relations campaign launched in the 1970s by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). John C. Bailar III, editor of the NCI journal questioned mass screenings in 1976, when he wrote about the possible benefits of mammography receiving far more emphasis than its defects. It has also been pointed out that the incidence of breast cancer has climbed steadily during the years that mass screening has been promoted.(3)
The woman’s health movement has many supporters who continue to question the efficacy of mammograms for mass screening. The late John W. Gofman, MD, PhD, illustrated how repeated exposures to low-level radiation from yearly mammograms increase a woman’s risk of developing the very disease she is trying so hard to prevent. Rosalie Bertell, PhD, cites a Canadian study showing that women who participated in mass screening programs actually developed more breast cancers than women who did not participate.(3)
Mammograms often falsely report a cancer exists leading to more invasive procedures, while entirely missing a real tumor leading to even more trouble. Joseph Mercola, MD, and the late John R. Lee, MD, both advocates of natural healing, suggest patients “follow the money” to find out why mammography is so entrenched in current medical practice.(3)
Outspoken critic of the cancer industry and public health advocate, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, summarizes the conflict of interest surrounding the issue of mass screening in a 2001 article which appeared in the International Journal of Health Services.
“The ACS has close connections to the mammography industry. Five radiologists have served as ACS presidents. In its every move the ACS promotes the interests of the major manufacturers of mammography machines and films, including Siemens, DuPont, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, and Piker.
The mammography industry also conducts research for the ACS and its grantees, serves on advisory boards, and donates considerable funds. DuPont also: is a substantial backer of the ACS Breast Health Awareness Program; sponsors television shows and other media productions touting mammography; produces advertising, and promotional literature for hospitals, clinics, medical organizations and doctors; produces educational films, and lobbies Congress for legislation promoting availability of mammography services. In virtually all its important actions, the ACS has been and remains strongly linked with the mammography industry, while ignoring or attacking the development of viable alternatives.”(4)
Readers who grew up in the 1950s may remember when shoe stores had x-ray equipment that allowed you to see the bones in your feet. You could do that every time you passed the shoe store if you wanted. By the 1960s those x-ray boxes had gone the way of the dinosaur. Can yearly mammograms be far behind? Women who want change will have to demand it.
This is not to ignore the importance of mammography as a useful diagnostic tool when necessary, but mass screening may be doing women more harm than good, as indicated by John C. Bailor, III, John W. Gofman, PhD, MD, Samuel Epstein, MD, Rosalie Bertell, PhD, Janette D. Sherman, MD, and many others.
- Annual Clinical Breast Exams (CBE) combined with monthly Self Breast Exams (SBE) are “effective, safe, and low-cost alternatives” with diagnostic mammography available when needed, according to Dr. Epstein. He advocates networks of CBE and BSE clinics, staffed with professionally trained nurses to be established internationally, thereby empowering women by providing them with scientific information on breast cancer risk factors and prevention. Dr. Epstein points out the multibillion dollar U.S. insurance industry and Medicare costs for mammography should be used for outreach programs on cancer prevention and other women’s programs.(4)
Further support for SBE comes from a 2007 study cited in the Journal of Clinical Oncology which concludes that most breast cancers are found by self-examination, even among women who had regular mammograms. This suggests that “self-examination remains an important method of breast cancer identification.”(5)
- Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI) uses radiation-free magnetic fields to create images of body tissue injected with a contrast dye that concentrates in cancer cells. It is better than mammography for identifying tumors in dense breast tissue of pre-menopausal women or women with implants. It is also recommended for high risk women with previous, or family history of breast cancer, and for women with the BRCA 1 / 2 gene mutation because there is no radiation exposure to vulnerable tissue. MRIs are more costly and insurance companies are reluctant to pay for them. The cost could be reduced if they become more widely used.(2)
- Ultrasound, also called sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to create maps of the body (sonograms). The technology is more advantageous than biopsy for distinguishing the difference between benign and malignant lesions and differentiating between fluid-filled cysts and tumors. Like MRIs, Ultrasound cannot detect micro calcifications.(2,6)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan) creates computerized images of chemical changes in tissue. An injection of sugar with a small amount of radioactive material helps locate tumors, because cancer cells absorb sugar faster than other cells. PET scans are useful for determining if a breast mass is cancerous, and are more accurate in detecting larger more aggressive tumors.(6)
- Thermography essentially uses heat sensitive equipment to photograph the body’s energy emissions. As tumors begin to develop their own blood supply they produce more heat than surrounding tissue and can show up as hot spots on colored film or digital displays. Thermograms do not confirm a cancer diagnosis, but easily point to areas of suspicion years before mammograms show anything significant. Thermograms are highly sensitive with no radiation exposure, are particularly useful for younger women with denser breast tissue, and are pain-free because nothing touches the body.(2)
Thermography expert, Philip Hoekstra, PhD, of Traverse, MI, has personally screened over 50,000 women and found the technology to be 86 to 96 percent accurate in revealing cancer in pre-menopausal women. In the event of an error it is almost always a false positive indicating a cancer did not actually exist, which is better than missing a real cancer.(2)
- Computerized Regulation Thermography (CRT-2000) differs slightly from other thermography technology in that it uses a small pen like device to measure skin temperature in 112 point locations on the face, torso, and arms. The body is allowed to cool for ten minutes and the procedure repeated, recording temperature changes. This information is useful in identifying specific organ function. The process is completed in about thirty minutes with immediate results available. This scan is a direct measurement of the autonomic nervous system, and serves as a vital key for physicians to approach the underlying disturbance mechanisms of disease and health. CRT-2000 is FDA accredited, 100% safe, and radiation-free. The technology is used in over 25 countries.(7)
Diagnostic thermography is capable of detecting areas of suspicion between five and eight years before mammograms find anything. If the medical industry practiced what it preached about “Early detection is the best protection against cancer,” why isn’t thermography being promoted? Perhaps we already know that answer.
Consumers vote with their dollar, and medical consumers do the same thing. If a health practitioner does not offer what the consumer wants, it is worth searching for a care giver whose health philosophy is more aligned with our own. Change comes slowly, but we have witnessed insurance companies agreeing to pay for chiropractics and acupuncture. A few companies will consider paying for thermograms. With enough consumer demand they should be willing to expand this coverage.
When checking various websites on thermography I was amused to find two warning letters from the FDA sent to two manufacturers for advertising their products beyond the limits of their FDA approval, which only permits the devices to be used as adjuncts to mammography, even though thermograms can identify trouble spots years ahead of mammograms, and with no radiation exposure to the patient. More information on thermography is available at:
- http://www.thermographynorth.com (Philip Hoekstra PhD, 231-941-2042)
- http://iact-org.org (Int’l. Medical Academy of Thermography) lists Board Certified
Clinical Thermologists by state. Not all states are represented.
- http://drbeilin.com (CRT-2000)
- Anti-Malignin Antibody Screen (AMAS) can be an alternative to, and adjunct to, mammography. When cancer is present the body produces defense molecules known as antibodies, and one of these is an anti-malignin protein designed to attack cancer cells. Sam Bogoch, MD, PhD, of Oncolab, Boston, MA, has researched the efficacy of the AMAS test and finds it to be 95 percent accurate on the first test and 99 percent accurate when repeated in detecting anti-malignin in early stage cancers.2 To achieve the 99 percent accuracy a repeated blood test can be done a few days or week following the first test. AMAS can replace more invasive biopsies when used as an adjunct to mammography.
AMAS is able to establish the presence of an early cancer, but does not indicate its location. Therefore, AMAS is also a good adjunct to self exam, clinical exam and thermography. AMAS is not as effective in advanced cancers because the anti-malignin antibody has been virtually eliminated at that stage.(2)
A blood test for AMAS is available in every state except New York. New Yorkers who wish to have this test will have to visit clinics or labs in neighboring states. The lab fee is $165. More information is available at 1-800-922-8378, fax 1-617-536-0657, http://www.oncolabinc.com.
(New laser technology is beginning to replace standard x-rays in some dentist’s offices. DIAGNODENT first became available seven to eight years ago. A small hand-held laser scans the surface of teeth to detect dental caries. It is more accurate than x-rays reducing over-treatment or under-treatment, and is radiation-free. This is especially important for pregnant women, children, and others who wish to reduce their exposure to radiation from diagnostic x-rays. More information on this technology is available at http://Kavousa.com, 1-800-323-8029).