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Beware the "advancement" of 3-D mammography -- the dangers are multiplied

I’m going to be honest. I don’t think it’s worth the extra money.

Sure 3D technology is cool and it made a huge difference in Avatar. But for most movies, it seems like it’s just a waste of the extra $5.

But at least all you’re throwing away there is a few bucks.

That isn’t the case at all with the new 3-D technology for mammography.

Women, at some point someone will probably try to sell you on a 3-D mammogram. They’ll tell you how wonderful it is. They’ll call it a “lifesaver.”

I strongly suggest you go to the movies instead.

Two steps back

Recently, I suggested we change October from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Mammogram Alternatives Awareness Month.

But this is NOT what I had in mind.

Unlike conventional mammography, the new 3-D mammography (we’ll call it 3-DM) can spot smaller tumors in dense breasts. And almost half of all women have dense breast tissue.

So, 3-DM researchers are basically admitting that conventional mammography is an inadequate way to screen nearly half of all women. They would never have admitted that before. But now they have to in order to tout the new technology.

Amazing! They just threw conventional mammography under the bus. Which is where it belongs, of course. But along with it, I would throw 3-DM there too. In spite of the dense tissue improvement, it’s actually WORSE than conventional.

Two reasons — compression and radiation.

1) Compression. This is a key drawback of mammography. Compression is painful. And that’s bad enough. But compression can actually prompt a tumor to become more active.

Conventional mammography requires about 20 seconds of breast compression. That doesn’t sound too bad. But when it’s your breast between the plates, that’s a VERY long 20 seconds.

So here’s the kicker… 3-DM more than DOUBLES the compression time to 48 seconds. More painful? Absolutely! But even worse, the risk of stimulating tumor activity also increases.

2) Radiation. The dose of radiation from conventional mammography is not massive. But radiation exposure is cumulative. Over your lifetime, each dose adds to your total. As your total grows, your cancer risk grows.

And here’s the second kicker… 3-DM delivers TWICE as much radiation as conventional mammography.

So this “improved” screening increases cancer risk in two ways. It’s insane!

And here’s what makes it TWICE as loony… You can screen dense breasts without compression and without radiation.

The technique is called Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS). As I mentioned recently, ABUS was just FDA approved to examine dense breasts. But doctors can use this technique for any breast tissue density. You can find out more about ABUS here.

Women, tell your friends. Then tell your mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts. With ABUS now available, the “advancement” of 3-D mammography is no step forward. It’s two huge steps back.

Sources:
“Is a 3-D Mammogram Better at Avoiding False Positives?” Laura Johannes, The Wall St. Journal, 10/1/12, online.wsj.com

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