Are Mammograms Really Safe and Effective?

End of the Day

A feud between two researchers has sparked controversy in the European medical community. Hopefully this feud will escalate and rage long and loud because it brings two very important questions to the attention of the mainstream – right where they belong:

1) Do mammograms reduce the risk of breast cancer death?

2) Are mammograms even safe?

Hiding the evidence

Feuding partner Number One is Peter Gotzsche, M.D. – a researcher at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark. Dr. Gotzsche and his associates recently published a study that found fault with the results of a large trial that reported a 31 percent reduction in breast cancer mortality due to mammogram screening. After reviewing the data, Dr. Gotzsche’s team concluded that a large number of breast cancer deaths in the original data had SOMEHOW been left out of the final report. Hmm imagine that.

Here’s where things start to heat up.

The Gotzsche study was originally published last spring in an online edition of the European Journal of Cancer (EJC). Three weeks later, EJC editors removed the study – without notice or explanation it just vanished from their web site. Dr. Gotzsche responded with an article that appeared in The Lancet, stating that EJC editors removed his study – even though it had been peer reviewed – because they received complaints from pro-mammogram doctors.

Enter feuding partner Number Tw Peter Dean, M.D., and professor of diagnostic radiology at Finland’s University of Turku.

A few years ago, Dr. Dean published an opinion in the Journal of the American College of Radiology that was highly critical of Gotzsche, charging that he’s waging a “nonscientific personal campaign to discredit breast cancer screening.” According to a recent article in The Scientist, a couple of strongly worded letters from Dr. Dean helped get Dr. Gotzsche’s study removed from the EJC site.

In response, The Scientist offers this comment from Dr. Gotzsche: “It’s terrible to suppress scientific findings.”

I completely agree. But sometimes the mainstream has no choice but to suppress science in order to protect the cash flow.

Compression contradiction

I think it’s safe to say that nearly all women who have had a mammogram dread the thought of future mammograms.

During a mammogram, breasts are squeezed tightly between two flat surfaces. This reduces density so that tumors can be revealed. But besides being a painful procedure, it’s also dangerous.

I’ve stated this in past e-Alerts, but it bears repeating again and again until women everywhere finally take notice: The compression required for mammograms can actually break down cancer tissue and rupture small blood vessels that support the cancer, causing it to spread.

This is known as the “compression contradiction,” and here’s what William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., had to say about it in the January 2002 issue of his Real Health Breakthroughs Newsletter: “I find it maddeningly contradictory that medical students are taught to examine breasts gently to keep any possible cancer from spreading, yet radiologists are allowed to manhandle them for a mammogram.”

Tell your doctor

Here are three reasons why I believe that Dr. Gotzsche is doing the medical community a service by questioning the safety and efficacy mammograms:

1) If a tumor is large enough to be detected by a mammogram, it’s already in an advanced stage, so very few cancers are caught in the earliest and most treatable stages.

2) Compression isn’t the only mammogram danger. A mammogram delivers about 1,000 times more radiation than a chest x-ray, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular damage.

3) Studies have shown that women who have mammograms suffer about the same rates of death due to breast cancer as women who do not have mammograms.

In previous e-Alerts I’ve told you about breast exam techniques that don’t require discomfort, compression, or radiation. In Computed Tomography Laser Mammography, for instance, a combination of laser light and thermal heat (but no radiation) produce a cross-section view of each breast. And in the Breast Cancer Detection System, very low electrical currents are transmitted into the breast without causing any pain. (Electricity passes through cancerous tissue differently than it passes through normal tissue).

These and other techniques are not yet used far and wide, and some of them are still in the experimental phase. Still, the next time your doctor says you’re due for a mammogram, tell him you’re interested in an alternative technique. If every women does this every time the word “mammogram” comes up, sooner or later the medical community will get the message: The day of the mammogram is almost done.