The National Brest Cancer Foundation says that 200,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year in the US alone. And every year, around 40,000 women die because of it.
A famous TV chef and cookbook writer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 with the help of a mammogram. Immediately, she started appearing on other shows to talk about her ordeal. One thing she’s promoted with a passion is the notion that no matter what your age, you need to go for a mammogram regularly.
But this is reckless advice. Beside the fact there’s very little evidence to suggest that all women should be getting regular mammograms, the scans can lead to some pretty bad things.
The Age Factor
Before you turn 40, mammograms are more likely to cause health issues than help prevent them. Up until the age of 50, this is still largely true.
It’s only after the age of fifty that the benefits of having a mammogram start to outweigh the risks. But no matter what your age bracket, mammograms simply aren’t as effective as we’ve all been led to believe.
Radiation: Worse than an X-Ray
Mammograms work in a similar manner as x-rays, in that both use radiation to see what’s under the surface. But mammograms use a larger amount of ionizing radiation. In fact, one mammogram exposes your breasts to as much radiation as 1000 chest x-rays would!
Before you hit menopause (usually in your fifties), your breasts are incredibly sensitive to radiation. With every mammogram you have, your risk of developing breast cancer actually increases by 1%.
That means the sooner you start having an annual check-up, the sooner you’ll get exactly what you don’t want to have.
Misdiagnosis – Financially and Emotionally Expensive
There are about four different types of cancer when you break it down. Some cancers grow so fast that even if they do show up on a mammogram, it’s likely to be too late already. Others stop growing at a certain point—and while they may cause some discomfiture, they aren’t fatal at all. Some cancers develop so slowly that you’ll pick it up and be able to remove it long before it becomes dangerous.
The final type grows at a regular pace, will be picked up by a mammogram, and can also be treated in time.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine exactly type of cancer is being picked up by a mammogram. And according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 80 percent of the lumps found by a mammogram aren’t cancerous, to begin with. And at least 30% of all breast tumors will disappear of their own accord.
About 50% of diagnostics result in unnecessary and expensive treatment because doctors will recommend them just in case.
Not only are these expensive, and in some cases further increase your likeliness of developing cancer for real, but the emotional trauma of a misdiagnosis lasts years.
What’s a Girl to Do?
Prevention is always going to be better than the cure and is most certainly a lot better than dangerous testing.
Your immune system is your number one ally in combating cancer, but it can do with a little help. Vitamin D has been found to be at least as effective in killing cancer cells as Tamoxifen, which is a highly toxic pharmaceutical still being used to combat breast cancer.
If you do find a lump in one of your breasts, then you should still consult your doctor. Don’t request a mammogram though—if your doctor thinks it would be beneficial, he or she will recommend one.