Mammogram Alternatives – What To Do Instead
My main goal as a breast cancer coach is to share with you the best ways of keeping yourself free of breast cancer. And I’m sorry, but having “routine”, yearly mammograms is definitely NOT part of that goal. So today I’m going to provide you with some mammogram alternatives, three things you can do instead of having mammograms.
Why Do I Hate Mammograms?
I hate mammograms, not only because they are incredibly uncomfortable, but because they are associated with an increased risk of cancer due to the high doses of radiation received during each screening. They are NOT saving lives, in fact, I would argue that millions of women are putting themselves at a higher risk each year by having these screenings done on healthy, non-cancerous tissue.
Another problem is the false positives which often result from routine mammogram screenings. False positives can lead to expensive repeat screenings (and even more radiation), and can often result in unnecessary invasive procedures such as biopsies, surgery, radiation and even chemotherapy. Not to mention the stress encountered when you are going through these things.
In May 2014, the New England Journal of Medicine released their article Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View From the Swiss Medical Board concluding that mammography screening is “hard to justify”. International studies have been carried out on the efficacy of mammograms, and the results of those studies is making it clear that mammogram screening is not doing what it was designed to do – save lives. Instead, people are being over-diagnosed and over-treated for things like DCIS which – in most cases – would never lead to invasive, life-threatening cancer.
At what point are we going to stop recommending mammography screening, pay attention to the science that clearly indicates it isn’t working, and do something else?
Dr Christine Horner’s Perspective
I recently had the good fortune to listen in on an interview with Dr Christine Horner, a doctor I have long admired for all she has done to promote natural healing and breast cancer prevention. Dr Horner recommends that we do a combination of 3 tests that are much less invasive, have no associated risks or side effects, and can actually be preventative. None of those things can be said about mammograms. These 3 things are, especially when used in combination, extremely accurate:
1. Ultrasound. Ultrasound screening is non-invasive, safe and painless. Sound waves – also called sonography – are used to produce pictures of the inside of the breast. A small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel is placed on the surface of the skin, then high-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the breast. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through vessels.
2. Monthly Physical Exam. If you haven’t become accustomed to doing a monthly self-exam, this is something you probably should consider. If you aren’t quite sure how to do one, see my article How To Do A Monthly Breast Self Exam. Since most women find their own breast lumps, learning how to do the self exam once per month is definitely worth the time and effort. Put it on your calendar or in your smart phone for a certain day each month (please do it now!).
3. Thermography. I have written a few articles about thermography – see them all in my category Thermography. Thermal imaging (approved by the FDA) uses a special infrared sensitive camera to digitally record images of the surface temperature of the body. Any abnormal variations in surface body temperature are indicators that a tumor may be growing in that region. Research has shown that the metabolic activity and vascular changes of developing tumors is higher and that results in an increase in surface body temperature compared to normal, healthy breast tissue. Thermography is far more accurate in detecting breast cancer and it can do so YEARS earlier than can mammography. For instance, it can detect tumor cells that are about the size of a single grain of rice, and mammography is still not that good. When tumors that small are detected, patients have nearly a much better chance of long-term survival.
These three methods are very effective, not terribly expensive, and quite safe.
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