Mammography: The Check that Often Bounces

Beyond the risks associated with false positives, breast tissue is so sensitive to a mammography’s radiation as to be threatened by the very examination developed to protect it. In fact with years of testing, the likelihood that a discovered tumor was either generated or stimulated out of dormancy by a former mammogram rises substantially in significance. At eleven treatments, the chance (by my retake of Blaylock’s reference) that a discovered, active tumor had awoken from the reprieve of dormancy or been mutated by those treatments would, depending on the mammographic technique, range from 10% to 25% and rising. If a mammogram indicates a tumor, how does one know from whence it came: remnant radioactive dust from Chernobyl, an earlier mammogram, or “tough luck?”The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has made recommendations that would cut such risks and more, yet I have heard no mention of radiation effects. Is this restraint, under fire, a way of buying respite from what is ultimately a possibility that is more horrific than mammography’s other fine print, the false positive? That would be extraordinary; and this mention of it, irresponsible except that the task force and its vision deserve to have its critics take pause.

(December 23, 2009) Today Teresa Heinz announced that mammograms had revealed that she had breast cancer, and assured that “the cost of a mammogram is far lower than the physical and personal tolls women, ages 40 to 60, face if their cancer goes undetected early and they later have to be treated with aggressive chemotherapy.”

I am also glad that this mammogram detected her tumor, but what about the mammograms leading up to this last one? Could one them have been the cause of the tumor itself (true positive)? What about radiation or chemotherapy based on a misdiagnosis (false positive)? Could a later emergent tumor be from a cell that mutated by virtue of that treatment, rather than from one that had escaped it?

Teresa Heinz and those dealing on a day-to-day basis with breast cance have benefited women with their efforts, but without a clear grasp of the Task Force’s claim, it doesn’t get resolved, nor does healthcare progress to a greater level.

(October 2, 2010) A new Swedish study suggests that woman age 40-49 could benefit from mammograms. The study’s time interval between checks ranged from 1.5 to 2 years, well in line with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation of 2 years. As for earlier testing the following ought to be looked into:

  • Were there higher rates of  tumors (non-breast) found in the scope of mammographic radiation?
  • Vitamin D3 restricts tumor development, but one source, the sun, is less abundant in Sweden than in the U.S., perhaps even more so in that age group.
  • Norway’s similar study was less dramatic. Why?

(December 18, 2010) I have only just learned that a saliva test out of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston may one day replace mammograms.

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