The arrow on this mammogram points to a small ...

The arrow on this mammogram points to a small cancerous lesion. A lesion is an area of abnormal tissue change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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From Dr. Mercola newsletter. By Johnnie Ham, MD, MBA

Link for the video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uzBa8VvbXWs

Facts and Persisting Concerns: Mammograms

More women are refusing mammograms. This is reflected in the dramatic decline of 4.3 percent in 2010. Previously, mammography use had increased annually by 1 percent between 2005 and 2009. Mammograms:

  1. Are incorrect 80 percent of the time (providing a false negative or false positive)
  2. Require repeated ionized radiation that can cause cancer
  3. Use compression, which can damage breast tissue or potentially spread cancer
  4. Are not effective for up to 50 percent of women (women with dense breasts or implants)
  5. Can lead to over-diagnosis and over-treatment of non-invasive cancers
  6. Can lead to the disturbing practice of “preventative” double mastectomies

If You Have Dense Breasts it is Even Worse

Breast density laws have now been passed in California,9 Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Texas making it mandatory for radiologists to inform their patients, who have dense breast tissue (40 to 50 percent of women) that mammograms are basically useless for them. Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on an X-ray, making it nearly impossible for a radiologist to detect cancer in these women. It’s like trying to find a snowflake in a blizzard. A law is now being considered at a Federal level as well.

In November 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study by Dr Archie Bleyer, MD from The Oregon Health Sciences Center, and his co-author, Dr H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H., from Dartmouth, challenging the validity of mammogram screenings and concluded that mammograms have little to no influence in the reduction of the number of women who ultimately die of breast cancer.7

Thirty years of US government data studied found that as many as 1/3 of cancers detected by mammography may not have been life threatening, and that over 1 million women have been over-diagnosed; leading to unnecessary treatments involving disfiguring surgeries; radiation and chemotherapy. They also showed that mammogram screenings have increased from about 30 percent of women 40 and older in 1985, to about 70 percent of women screened, proving how effective we have been at convincing women they need to get a mammogram.

I take my oath to do no harm very seriously. After many years of research, clinical practice; and due to my wife’s personal experience with mammography, I cannot in good conscience recommend mammograms. I inform my patients that mammograms are considered the current “gold standard”, but I also make certain they know the facts about the screening and that there are other screen tools available.

About the Author:

Dr. Johnnie Ham, MD, former Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army Medical Corps, is the Medical Director of Coastal Prestige Medical Services, Pismo Beach, CA. Coastal Prestige Physicians offer top-notch comprehensive healthcare, with an emphasis on evidence-based primary care and preventive health for all ages.

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