alternatives to mammograms

  1. Mammograms boost stress and anxiety

    The toll of cancer -- even when you don't have it

    Mammograms are so unreliable that any woman screened regularly is almost bound to experience a false positive or two over the years.

    But there's nothing "false" about it when a woman first hears the news. As far as she's concerned, any suspicious mass is cancer until proven otherwise -- which is why false positives often give women the same stress and anxiety as an actual cancer diagnosis.

    And that stress and anxiety doesn't vanish in a sigh of relief when a second test turns up nothing. New research shows that women who experience false positives often battle the same emotional and psychological issues as actual cancer patients for months or even years afterward.

    Researchers gave regular psychological tests to 864 women with normal mammogram results and 446 women who had suspicious results -- including 174 who actually did have the disease.

    Overall, the women with normal mammograms had the best results, while the women with actual cancer had the worst stress and anxiety.

    The women with false positives were somewhere in between overall. But in two key areas -- inner calm and existential values -- their scores were the same as those of the actual cancer patients.

    This wasn't just a brief blip on the stress-o-meter. It took three years for the women with false positives to return to normalcy, according to the study in the Annals of Family Medicine.

    That's three years of stress and anxiety over a disease they didn't even have.

    This is hardly the only problem with mammograms, of course. It's not even the worst of the problems with mammograms -- because these screenings use radiation, increasing your risk of the very cancer the mammogram is supposed to detect.

    There are other ways to screen for breast cancer, including less frequent mammograms and imaging techniques that use no radiation, such as MRIs and ultrasound. Talk to a holistic physician about the best options for you.

  2. 3D mammogram results better?

    New mammogram in the news

    In this day and age, we should be working to expose people to less radiation -- not more.

    That's why I'm really concerned by a gimmicky new form of mammogram being pushed by the mainstream that requires double the radiation of the traditional mammogram because they'll only allow women to get this new form in ADDITION to the original.

    It's called a 3-D mammogram, and the name is meant to conjure up images of high technology -- that, and paying an extra $3 to see a movie while wearing dark glasses looking at your mammogram results.

    But whatever image it conjures up in your mind, it creates a much sharper image of your mammogram results on the computer screen -- one doctors claim can help them better detect cancer.

    Turns out they're not the best judges of their own skills, because it bumps the accuracy of mammogram results up by only a very small amount -- 7 percent, mostly in the form of fewer false positives.

    Don't get me wrong: A false positive can give a woman the scare of a lifetime, not to mention weeks of unnecessary stress. I'm all for reducing the number of false positives in mammogram results -- but not at the expense of giving everyone double the amount of cancer-causing radiation.

    After all, what's a small decrease in false positives worth when you're talking about a guaranteed increase in the number of cancers caused by the screenings?

    Already, regular mammograms cause cancer in about 1 out of every 1,000 women screened. That may not sound very big, but it adds up fast when you screen 48 million women every year in the United States alone.

    Now, think of how much faster those numbers will rise if you double the radiation used in each mammogram.

    That's unacceptable to me -- especially when there are safe and proven alternatives that use no radiation at all, including MRIs and ultrasound. You won't hear about these techniques from the pink ribbon campaigns, so speak to a holistic doctor instead.

  3. Fingers pointed at breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    One of the Komen foundation's key claims about mammograms has been exposed as a wild exaggeration. The real numbers show screenings save few lives.

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