Now that the European Parliamentary elections are behind us, it’s been interesting to see how the newly elected MEPs from the various member countries are defining their priorities for the coming five years.
Among the first MEPs to declare their agenda were Elena Gentile, Cristian-Silviu Busoi and Lieve Wierinck, setting their sights firmly on the need to make breast cancer prevention a priority for the new Parliament.
The MEPs, from Italy, Romania and Belgium respectively, have written an open letter in which they confirmed their political support for the pan-European initiative Transforming Breast Cancer Together (TBCT) – a movement that has called on the European Parliament to be an active advocate for fundamental changes in healthcare strategies relating to prevention and cure.
But there’s something of an irony in the fact that for a group of influencers who claim to be campaigning for unity in addressing rising breast cancer diagnoses and inequalities in health outcomes across Europe there is actually very little ‘togetherness’ in their approach.
They also appear to be a little behind the curve on scientific thinking when it comes to screening policy and protocols, with the pre-election manifesto urging all would-be MEPs to support calling for the introduction of nationwide mammography screenings in all countries.
The manifesto makes no reference to a growing body of scientific thought which suggests not only that mammography has limited diagnostic benefit due to inaccuracy and overdiagnosis, but that it also poses a tangible risk to health through irradiation and tissue damage.
These findings are not exactly the province of the minority view, either. In Switzerland the arguments against mammography are so compelling that routine mammography screening has been entirely abolished. France is also currently reviewing its position on mammography.
There been a growing view that the ‘pink ribbon’ community of healthcare providers, pharma commerce and third sector fundraisers have long been enamoured of mammography partly because of the revenues it drives.
The ‘screening saves lives’ mantra is a trigger that opens up research, funding and donation streams and suspicion that the flaws inherent in mammography are conveniently overlooked as a result is not a new phenomenon.
The TBCT manifesto focuses its ‘concrete’ recommendations on the implementation of national mammography schemes, return to work support and the collection of data to improve technology and diagnostics.
Absent from its call to action is any acknowledgement, recognition or appreciation of the other options that already exist to support it in its aims – and I find that both surprising and disappointing.
Can TBCT be said to be truly serious about tackling breast cancer if it seems so resolutely indisposed to have an open mind on screening processes that are evidence-rich, risk-free and more accurate than traditional mammography?
Can the three MEPs who have added their weight to the TBCT cause be truly said to be serving their electorate by putting all their eggs in the mammography basket when other options can provide even greater scope for preventative strategies?
When used in conjunction with mammography, a complementary screening tool like the ThermoCheck® breast thermography we use, which monitors the changes in breast tissue temperature that can be an indication of problems, offers 6 distinct benefits:
Suitable for all – unlike mammography, which is ineffective in screening younger women due to greater breast density, thermography is suitable for women of all ages, meaning it offers lifetime monitoring rather than the current UK policy of screening only women aged between 47 and 73.
Greater accuracy – used in the right conditions i.e Dynamic Thermography (which involves ensuring a cooling procedure), thermography is up to 95% accurate in detecting abnormalities in breast tissue health. By contrast, mammography is only accurate in two thirds of screenings.
Early detection – thermography can detect the tissue changes that may indicate very early signs of breast cancer or an at-risk breast up to ten years before a mammogram would pick up the smallest tumour.
Better outcomes – in identifying potential problems very early it can be possible, through lifestyle and key nutritional changes, to reverse the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis.
Risk free – because thermography is non-invasive, there is no risk to health through its use. By contrast, there is now strong evidence to show that mammography may actually contribute to the development of breast cancer both through the radiation generated by the x-ray and possibly also through the aggressive manipulation of breast tissue that mammography entails.
Prevention vs. diagnosis – thermography represents a real opportunity to avoid a breast cancer diagnosis altogether. Even at its most accurate, mammography can only ever tell you that you already have the disease.
Those are six good reasons for TBCT to walk their talk and properly unite with alternative and natural medicine practitioners to provide a suite of options in tackling breast cancer in the future. Otherwise, all we’ll ever end up doing is reinventing the same wheel over and over again with the same unacceptable outcomes.