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  • Behind the Screens of Mammograms

    1 posts, 1 voices, 921 views, started Jun 25, 2009

    Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2009 by Denise Richardson


    • Diamond

      Behind the Screens of Mammograms  

      by Jenny Thompson - Editor of Nutrition & Healing
      A radiologist is a doctor, but he’s also a businessman. So if the medical community says mammogram screening saves lives and all women over 40 should be getting a yearly exam, then it’s just good business to embrace that recommendation and strongly encourage customers... err, step up to the compression plates. After all, radiologists who give mammograms are saving lives, right?  

      So you can imagine how a radiologist might not exactly warm up to a recent study that shows the life-saving reputation of mammograms is vastly overstated. In fact, as a radiologist, you might hope that this study would be strongly refuted by the medical “powers that be“. And it was. But here’s the kicker: The study was conducted by a radiologist.  

      Division in the ranks  

      The people who promote mammogram screening are pushing the wrong statistics, according to Dr. John Keen - a radiologist who conducts mammograms.  

      Dr. Keen and his brother, Dr. James Keen of the University of Nebraska, simply set out to analyse the claim that mammography saves lives. To calculate benefit, the Keens compared several sets of metrics, including survival percentages (with and without screening), relative risk reduction based on randomised mammography trials, and a 15-year cumulative breast cancer mortality programme.  

      Results showed that the average woman has a 6% risk of developing breast cancer between the ages of 55 and 70. But if you take 1,000 women at age 50 and give each one a yearly mammogram for 15 years, only about two lives will be saved.  

      Of course, this conclusion was disputed by Dr. Robert Smith - the Ameican Cancer Society director of cancer screening. Dr. Smith told Reuters that when 465 women are screened for seven years, one life would be saved over the course of 20 years. I wonder if he actually believes that sounds impressive?  

      Taking a toll  

      One of Dr. Keen’s primary problems with recommending such widespread screening is the high risk of false positive results, which prompt unnecessary follow up mammograms, ultrasound tests and biopsies.  

      Obviously this is quite stressful for patients, while taking a financial toll on patients and insurance companies.  

      What Dr. Keen doesn’t mention are the two factors that I’m sure most radiologists would rather not discuss:  

      1) Radiation: Yearly mammograms expose women to cumulative doses of radiation that may prompt cancer growth.  

      2) Compression: Rough handling of breasts can cause tumours to spread and the intense compression required for mammography clearly qualifies as rough handling.  

      In an interview with Reuters, Dr. Keen very accurately characterises the medical community’s relationship with mammogram candidates: “We don’t trust women to make their own decisions about whether or not to screen. We just tell them to screen. We just say mammography saves lives.”  

      In Dr. Keen’s view, the patient is making a purchase and he just wants to let them know what they‘re buying. “I am saying that women need to be told the benefits and the harms and they need to make their own decision.”  

      Decide on their own? Doesn’t he know you‘re not supposed to say things like that in the medical mainstream?  

      Source: Health Bytes - click here for more women’s health articles


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