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Mammograms Not Recommended Until Age 50
 
An expert panel’s recommendation that mammography screening to detect breast cancer be scaled back has caused consternation among women and doctors. The new recommendation came from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed group of 16 outside experts created 25 years ago to advise the Department of Health and Human Services on the effectiveness of various screening techniques. Half are women. The panel’s mission and expertise are medical, to determine whether mammograms do more good than harm for women of various ages.
 
Its most controversial recommendations — in conflict with recommendations from the American Cancer Society and other medical groups — were that women in their 40s should not routinely have mammograms and that women between ages 50 and 74 should have mammograms every two years instead of annually. That recommendation was based on an analysis showing that every-other-year screenings could provide 80 percent of the benefits of annual screening while cutting the risks almost in half.
 
These recommendations have shocked many people, but the American College of Physicians made similar recommendations two years ago and the National Breast Cancer Coalition, an advocacy group for patients, has been saying for years that mammography screening has been oversold, has significant limitations and can cause harm. It urges women to make their own decisions based on the best available facts.
In suggesting that women in their 40s not get screened (unless they are at high risk for breast cancer), the panel argued that the harms of mammograms for those women appear to outweigh the benefits.
 
Screening turns up lots of tiny abnormalities that are either not cancer or are slow-growing cancers that would never progress to the point of killing a woman and might not even become known to her. If a suspicious abnormality is found, women usually get another mammogram or imaging test to better identify it and often a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous. If it is, most women have it treated with surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy, all of which carry risks for the patient.
 
The task force acknowledges that mammography saves lives among women in their 40s. But it estimates that more than 1,900 women have to be screened for a decade to save a single life. Among women in their 50s, when breast cancer is more common, only about 1,300 women have to be screened; among women in their 60s, only 377.
The panel concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks among those over 50, but not in the younger group. It found insufficient evidence to determine whether digital mammography or magnetic resonance imaging, two newer and more costly technologies, are any better than standard film mammography.
 
The panel also cites the anxiety and distress that many women experience when a mammogram finds something suspicious.
 
New York Times: Published: November 19, 2009
 
 
Dr. Iverson's Comment
 
I’m actually in favor of the new recommendations made by this task force.   Some screening techniques are harmless and are quite helpful in identifying early disease, others are more invasive. For example, blood testing for prostate cancer by measuring PSA has shown to be a valuable method of identifying cancerous conditions without invading the organ itself. Colonoscopies, if performed by an expert, have a very low chance of side effects.  The only real detriment may be the preparation of the colonoscopy before hand by drinking the sludge and sitting on the toilet for hours. 
 
Mammograms are different. The article failed to site what most natural doctors have been citing for years in their opposition: trauma and radiation. During the mammogram the breast tissue is compressed with high force pressure between two plates that emit high radiation. Some experts believe that this very action of traumatizing the tissue with pressure and radiation is likely to make one more susceptible to a cancer in the future. It certainly makes inherent sense.
 
This reminds me of an article that came out in Time magazine October 2007 showed the countries with the highest rates of breast cancer in the world. It showed the US, Mexico, Europe, Australia, and Canada as the areas with the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world. Then it went on to show the number of women that actually died due to breast cancer and compared the different countries of the world. Do you know what was found? The western world, with all our advanced diagnostic techniques, had significantly HIGHER death rates then women in third world countries! What is going on?
 
As mentioned in the article above. It seems that western science is getting really good at finding these abnormal cells. Unfortunately, just because they are finding them doesn’t mean that we are getting any better at curing them. Also, it often means that what we are finding is not always cancer or a malignancy at all. Thus, the western world has the highest rates of incidence in the world not because we have more cancer, but because the diagnostic techniques are finding cancers more readily. 
 
Again, if you are someone with a strong family history it would be advised to have blood tests ran to ensure hormone ratios are in balance.  Estrogens should be checked such as the good metabolite 2-hydroxy estradiol, which should be in a greater ratio when compared to the bad metabolite 16-alpha-hydroxy estradiol. Regular breast exams by your physician are also helpful in identifying suspicious lumps. Rather than mammograms, images from ultrasound can be helpful in identifying masses as benign or malignant. Thermography is also given positive feedback in early detection that does not use harmful radiation to detect lumps. If there is no family history, it is fair that the new guidelines above would be prudent. Continue your healthy lifestyle and see your doctor for yearly examinations.
 
Be well.
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