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Mammograms decried as nearly useless... by doctors!

Breast cancer

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(NaturalNews) Shortly after the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced changes to its mammogram recommendations, saying that women of average risk should start getting them at the age of 45 instead of the previously-recommended age of 40, a study has come out suggesting that mammograms may not necessarily be effective in the first place. (1,2)

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), doctors from prestigious areas such s Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Connecticut Health Center have noted that breast cancer screening does not help prevent serious and advanced cases of cancer; in fact, they've likely already spread beyond the breast when they are discovered during a mammogram and have probably even remained stable for decades. The finding involved assessing breast cancer statistics going as far back as the 1970s to more current times. (2)

What you've been told versus new findings about breast cancer detection

The news conflicts with commonly-held breast cancer detection beliefs and reiterations that "early detection is the best detection," while also raising questions about the nature of cancer. For example, they write, "Screening offers hope that cancer can be detected in an early, localised phase when it's more amenable to treatment." However, they said that such a notion is based on the assumption that cancer starts in one place, grows and then spreads to organs, something referred to as the Halstedian paradigm. (2,3)

"If the Halstedian paradigm is correct," the authors state in NEJM, "effective screening should allow cancers destined to metastasize to be identified at an earlier stage and reduce the incidence of cancers that first present as metastatic disease." They maintain that this can't be the case because if it were, then breast cancer screenings would also reduce the advanced cancer rates. (2,3)

Furthermore, they also discovered that the average rate of advanced stage breast cancers being detected has remained stable since 1975, even though mammography has been used tremendously and heavily advocated in the medical community since the 80s. They also point out that 63 years is the average age of women diagnosed with cancer--an age which has remained steady through the years--yet another indication that cancers aren't being detected sooner. (2)

By the time cancer is detected with mammography, it could already be too late

The NEJM article, titled, "Trends in Metastatic Breast and Prostate Cancer — Lessons in Cancer Dynamics," elaborates on that latter point:

...the mean age at diagnosis among women 40 years of age or older hasn't changed over the past 37 years, remaining at 63.7 years. Either mammography isn't sensitive enough to identify these cancers early or they don't fit the Halstedian paradigm of steady progression. The lack of change in the incidence of metastatic disease is consistent with the hypothesis that breast cancer is a systemic disease by the time it's detectable... (3)

Between this news and the ACS's changing recommendations, it's no wonder that many people may be confused about how to best manage their health. Should they go by the latest ACS guidelines or stick to getting mammograms earlier?--which the ACS says women can still do, especially if they are at high risk. Or should they be more questioning of mammograms, since the concept of early detection may be a fast-dwindling notion? (1)

After all, we've got doctors themselves who are now questioning mammography and instead suggesting more of an emphasis on studying cancer's many ways of progressing instead of putting such an emphasis on so-called early detection technologies.

Screening may not be helpful, experts suggest

"Some cancers will be systemic at the outset, some will progress and some will not," the NEJM article states. "Conflating these types of lesions could result in screening programs that are not helpful and administration of treatment that is either not needed or not effective...The lesson from all this is the value of clinical investigation to study the natural history of disease." (3)

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.naturalnews.com
(2) http://www.dailymail.co.uk
(3) http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1510443?query=featured_home

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