If you search online for what checks can I have for breast cancer?, the results will overwhelmingly encourage you to either self-examine or to have a mammogram.
To all intents and purposes, the scale of that message is so great that you would be forgiven for believing those two screening methods are the only options available if you really want to protect yourself from cancer.
There are all sorts of arguments that support self-examination and mammography and certainly a regular and frequent self-check of your breast health is a good habit to get into (and if you’re unsure how to check for lumps, this video is a useful practical guide).
But let’s be honest here: neither checking your breast health nor a mammogram is going to protect you from getting the disease – they’ll only tell you that you’ve already got it.
Even then, a mammogram is only accurate in 60% of screenings, with compelling evidence of high numbers of false positive screenings – where a mammogram gives a positive detection of cancer when, in fact, there is no cancer in the breast – a recurring theme in the ongoing debate around the suitability of mammography in the fight against cancer).
Yet for all the risks a false positive screening can bring – the likelihood of subsequent needless and risky biopsy procedures and the possibility of unnecessary and often catastrophically invasive treatments like chemotherapy and, in extreme cases, mastectomy – there are other disadvantages to this approach which are less well known and which the traditional cancer industry is less willing to talk about.
There is now strong evidence to suggest that not only can mammography play a role in causing cancer due to the aggressive manipulation the breasts undergo during screening, but also that it can encourage an existing tumour to metastasize – or spread – more quickly in other parts of the body.
Writing in the European Journal of Radiology in 2012, Dr Katharina Pachmann of the University of Jena, Germany, revealed the results of a clinical research experiment involving a broad range of women with and without a known case of breast cancer and with and without a history of mammography.
The results showed that of those women who had never undergone mammography, only 20% were shown to have disseminated tumour cells – in other words, cancerous cells circulating in the body.
By contrast, 91% (44 of 48) of those women who had previously undergone mammograms were shown to have rapidly circulating tumour cells.
This research is supported by other studies, suggesting the risks associated with mammography are not limited merely to inaccurate detection – which is bad enough – but also to a more rapid development of the disease where a tumour has been accurately identified in the breast.
A year ago, following three years of research, the Swiss Medical Board agreed to abolish the use of screening mammography in Switzerland due to concerns that the risks the procedure presented outweighed the potential benefits. Earlier this year a Danish study raised further questions about the value of mammography. America is also considering its position where breast cancer prevention is concerned.
Mammography is also bypassing a large number of women who are at genuine risk of cancer either because of the density of their breast tissue, or their age, or both.
Yet despite the apparently compelling reasons why mammography might not be the only way to tackle the challenge of breast cancer, the risk-free alternatives to mammography which could, at the very least, complement and augment existing screening process, are simply not part of any of the cancer industry’s communications strategy.
We are now in October, the month when, each year, the NHS and national charities beat the awareness drum, urging us to talk about breast cancer and to raise money to continue the fight against it.
Yet the irony is that the steadfast refusal of charities and the medical community to put information about natural, non-invasive and risk-free methods of screening in the public domain means the majority of women remain oblivious to the risks associated with the cancer industry’s preferred method of screening.
Perhaps, instead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October should instead be renamed Breast Cancer Unawareness Month.
To find out more about our risk-free, computer assisted Thermocheck breast thermography, visit our information page here