Regular Checkups Allow Early Diagnosis-Mammography

Regular checkups are important to allow early detection of breast cancer. Regular checkups can include mammograms, ultrasounds, thermography, Halo testing, and daily or weekly breast self-examinations at home. Which diagnostic test is “best” has not yet been determined and is the subject of much debate. Most doctors prefer mammography and/or ultrasound; which test is best for you can only be determined after discussion with your gynecologist.

Also a subject of much discussion and debate concerns what constitutes “regular” testing. Most doctors recommend annual mammograms for women over 40 unless they are at high risk in which case mammograms will likely start at an earlier age. Recently the federal government announced that annual mammograms for women over 40 were not necessary, causing quite an uproar in the medical and especially breast cancer community. This new recommendation is likely due to the new healthcare law where costs must be controlled and recommendations for regular screening for many if not all cancers will decrease in order to save costs.

My wife was having mammograms done every two years and this seemed to be adequate for her, although we were lucky that her cancer happened to develop and was detected when she was due for her mammogram this year rather than occurring a year earlier or later in which case her cancer might not have been discovered at an early stage.

While frequent (annual) mammograms increase your chance of detecting cancer at an early stage, it is also true that annual mammograms increase your exposure to radiation which is cumulative and can cause damage including cancer in the future. It is also true that many women are subjected to additional testing based upon questionable mammogram findings discovered on annual mammograms; this testing would likely not be done as frequently if mammograms were done less frequently. And women with dense breasts can have a normal mammogram yet could have very serious cancer hiding in the breast that is not detected with annual mammograms (ultrasounds are needed to discover these cancers yet are not routinely done.)

We know statistically that approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. On the positive side this means 7 out of 8 women will never develop breast cancer, but if you are that one woman who does develop breast cancer then the statistic is relatively meaningless.

There is no doubt that the major reason women with breast cancer are living longer and being cured is early detection rather than improvement in treatment, making early detection critical in order to ensure a long life and a cure if you are ever diagnosed with breast cancer.

I believe the best recommendation is to talk with your gynecologist and make a decision based upon your own wants and needs. In order to minimize radiation damage whenever ionizing radiation (x-rays) are taken for any reason (mammography, dental x-rays, etc.) supplementing with specific antioxidants are important. I recommend taking the antioxidants quercetin and curcumin one week prior to diagnostic x-rays, the day of the x-ray, and for one week following the x-ray procedure in order to minimize damage to normal cells.

Lesson #1-Mammograms don’t always detect breast cancer-request and get an ultrasound-

Corollary-Mammograms expose you to radiation which will damage normal breast cells, which means mammograms may contribute to the development of cancer as well as diagnose cancer.

While “regular” mammograms are important for women (and as I’ve mentioned exactly what the term “regular” means is open for debate,) it is much more difficult for mammograms to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue. Sandy’s cancer was actually detected by accident. She went for her mammograms and something looked “suspicious.” A follow-up mammogram confirmed that the “suspicious” area was still present so the doctor wisely performed an ultrasound which easily revealed a small tumor in her breast. Were it not for her doctor acting on her suspicions and knowing that mammograms fail to detect breast cancer in many women, it is likely that Sandy’s cancer would not have been caught at this early stage. While we were not thankful for the diagnosis of cancer, we were very thankful that it was caught early and will likely never cause for a problem.

Coming soon-Blog #4-Regular Checkups Allow Early Detection–Breast Self-Examinations