Is there a right way to check your breasts for early signs of cancer? Many women remain confused as experts now say there is no evidence that rigorous monthly "self-examination" -- widely recommended in the United States -- reduces breast cancer deaths. Plus, it can lead to unnecessary biopsies.
Two large studies looking at a total of more than 388,000 women found that death rates from breast cancer were the same among women who rigorously self-examined as those who did not, while there were almost twice the number of biopsy operations in the self-examination group.
According to some experts, the best way for a woman to check her breasts is not to follow a strict examination routine, but to get to know what is normal, and feel them regularly for signs of any changes.
BBC News July 15, 2008
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews July 2008, Issue 3
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Breast self-exams have long been recommended as a simple way for women to keep track of anything unusual in their breasts. Now, after studies have found that such exams do not reduce breast cancer death rates, and actually increase the rate of unnecessary biopsies, many experts are recommending a more relaxed approach known as “breast awareness.”
Breast awareness is really self-explanatory. It means women should regularly check their breasts for changes, but can do so in a way that feels natural for them. In other words, you don’t have to do it on the same day each month, or using any particular pattern.
Simply be aware of what’s normal for you so you can recognize anything out of the ordinary. What should you keep an eye out for?
A new lump or hard knot found in your breast or armpit
Dimpling, puckering or indention in your breast or nipple
Change in the size, shape or symmetry of your breast
Swelling or thickening of the breast
Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
Nipple discharge, especially any that is bloody, clear and sticky, dark or occurs without squeezing your nipple
Changes in your nipple such as tenderness, pain, turning or drawing inward, or pointing in a new direction
Any suspicious changes in your breasts
Are Mammograms a Good Idea?
Aside from breast self-exams, the other mainstay in the U.S. medical system is the mammogram. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women get a mammogram every year or two after age 40.
But I strongly disagree.
The benefits of mammograms are highly controversial, while the risks are well established. Back in 2001, around the time that U.S. health officials widened the use of mammograms to included women over 40 (previously it was only women over 50), a Danish study published in The Lancet revealed some startling data.
The study concluded that previous research showing a benefit was flawed and that widespread mammogram screening is unjustified.
Specifically, the Danish researchers argued that earlier studies in Europe and North America were improperly randomized and that they used a faulty definition of breast cancer survival.
Meanwhile, the technology carries a first-time false positive rate of up to 6 percent. False positives can lead to expensive repeat screenings and can sometimes result in unnecessary invasive procedures including biopsies and surgeries.
Just thinking you may have breast cancer, when you really do not, focuses your mind on fear and disease, and is actually enough to trigger an illness in your body. So a false positive on a mammogram, or an unnecessary biopsy, can really be damaging.
Not to mention that women have unnecessarily undergone mastectomies, radiation and chemotherapy after receiving false positives on a mammogram.
An Amazing Deception
That mammograms are still recommended at all speaks volumes about the state of modern medicine.
Decades ago in 1974, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was warned by professor Malcolm C. Pike at the University of Southern California School of Medicine that a number of specialists had concluded "giving a women under age 50 a mammogram on a routine basis is close to unethical."
Well for starters mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, which poses risks of cancer. Mammography also compresses your breasts tightly, and often painfully, which could lead to a lethal spread of cancerous cells, should they exist.
“The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1 percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade's screening,” points out Dr. Samuel Epstein, one of the top cancer experts.
Dr. Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, has been speaking out about the risks of mammography since at least 1992. As for how these misguided mammography guidelines came about, Epstein says:
“They were conscious, chosen, politically expedient acts by a small group of people for the sake of their own power, prestige and financial gain, resulting in suffering and death for millions of women. They fit the classification of "crimes against humanity."”
Not surprisingly, as often happens when anyone dares speak out against those in power, both the American Cancer Society and NCI called Dr. Epstein’s findings “unethical and invalid.”
But this didn’t stop others from speaking out as well.
In July 1995, The Lancet again wrote about mammograms, saying "The benefit is marginal, the harm caused is substantial, and the costs incurred are enormous ..."
Dr. Charles B. Simone, a former clinical associate in immunology and pharmacology at the National Cancer Institute, said, "Mammograms increase the risk for developing breast cancer and raise the risk of spreading or metastasizing an existing growth.”
"The high sensitivity of the breast, especially in young women, to radiation-induced cancer was known by 1970. Nevertheless, the establishment then screened some 300,000 women with Xray dosages so high as to increase breast cancer risk by up to 20 percent in women aged 40 to 50 who were mammogramed annually,” wrote Dr. Epstein.
Safe Screening Methods do Exist: The Benefits of Thermography
But you’re not likely to hear about them from your general practitioner.
“ … The establishment ignores safe and effective alternatives to mammography, particularly trans illumination with infrared scanning,” Dr. Epstein points out.
Most physicians continue to recommend mammograms for fear of being sued by a woman who develops breast cancer after which he did not advise her to get one. But I encourage you to think for yourself and consider safer, more effective alternatives to mammograms.
The option for breast screening that I most highly recommend is called thermography.
Thermographic breast screening is brilliantly simple. It measures the radiation of infrared heat from your body and translates this information into anatomical images. Your normal blood circulation is under the control of your autonomic nervous system, which governs your body functions.
Thermography uses no mechanical pressure or ionizing radiation, and can detect signs of breast cancer years earlier than either mammography or a physical exam.
Mammography cannot detect a tumor until after it has been growing for years and reaches a certain size. Thermography is able to detect the possibility of breast cancer much earlier, because it can image the early stages of angiogenesis (the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size).
Visit www.mercola.com for links and related articles:
*A state by state list of thermagraphy centers
*New Federal Guidelines Ignore Dangers of Mammography.
*When Will the Insanity of Mammogram Recommendation End?
*Can Professional Breast Exams Replace Mammography?