Since a long time women who are 50 years or older are encouraged to get mammograms every few years to detect breast cancer at an early stage. This is supposed to save lives, but reality is completely different. A professor of surgical oncology has a few doubts about the sacred status of mammograms. She is still seriously misinformed, but at least it’s a start.
Cancer screening programs are of no use to begin with, for they don’t save any lives. That myth is carefully kept alive to keep the screening industry going, but it’s a lie. Early detection doesn’t save lives and screening programs cause a very high number of false positives. All these people not only get very scared (and high stress is unhealthy), but they also get further tests, which are often quite risky and sometimes carcinogenic. As far as mammograms go, it’s very well known (and generally accepted) that 10-15% of the women who get treated for cancer after a screening mammogram doesn’t have cancer. Or they had a form of cancer that would never have become life threatening. Nevertheless these women usually undergo mastectomies (a horrible mutilation), radiation and then chemotherapy. The last two of course are highly carcinogenic. These women only need to survive the therapy to go into the statistics as a success. And there is also the reason why screening programs increase the survival rate so much. Treat healthy people as if they have cancer and you can be sure your statistics get a boost. But of course it’s a horrible crime against these patients (who shouldn’t have been patients in the first place). The problem is that the women who “survived” breast cancer cancer they never had are biggest supporters of screening mammograms, for “it saved my life”. Someone should tell them the truth, but they probably wouldn’t believe it.
Mammograms use radiation. The same radiation as used for X-rays, but in a much higher dose and on tissue that happens to be very sensitive to it. In short: mammograms cause breast cancer and this is also very well known. But the medical system doesn’t consider that a reason to stop with it. The professor says that in case of DCIS “watchful waiting” might be a better option than immediate treatment. That means more mammograms, which means a higher chance to get cancer. What kind of absurd system is this?
The reason why cancer screening programs are so popular is simply that it gets more people into the system. Many people are diagnosed with cancer, who would never have known about it without the screening. And then they are subjected to carcinogenic treatments, so that they have a hugely increased chance of really getting cancer within the next five years. Cancer is an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. And every industry has one main goal: growth. As you cannot easily create more cancer patients, you can convince people that they have cancer. The end result is the same.
Is there a better way to screen for breast cancer? There sure is. It’s called a thermogram. As cancer tissue radiates more heat this can be registered. Thermography is completely harmless and it can be done at an early age (where mammograms are of little use under age 50). When something is detected watchful waiting can be applied and then you can see that many small tumours disappear. So why aren’t mammograms replaced with thermograms? For two reasons. The mammography machines are expensive and need to pay themselves back. So they need to be used as much as possible. And a thermography wouldn’t cause all those false positives, which would decrease the number of patients. The professor in the article is part of a system that has no interest in decreasing the number of patients. And that’s why nobody will tell her that mammograms are dangerous and completely useless and that a better alternative is available. And so she will keep spreading her misinformation. And many more women will become the victim of the fiction that mammograms save lives.