For many women over the age of 40, annual mammograms have become habitual. Doctors have extolled the virtues of mammography for life-saving early detection and treatment of breast cancers. However, recent research revealed some startling facts. A study of 90,000 women ages 40-59 revealed that mammogram diagnosis resulted in only 5 fewer deaths and little more than 100 more diagnosed cases than those who received only physical breast examinations over a 10 year period of time. While we discourage patients from jumping to any conclusions, we encourage you to review your health care practices according to the results of new medical research.
Myth 1: Women Should Receive Annual Mammograms Beginning at Age 40
25 years ago when the above study began, doctors urged patients over 40 to receive a mammogram every year. Women in this age group who received annual mammograms were hardly more successful at finding and treating breast cancer than those who utilized only physical breast exams. Additional research revealed that of only 3250 women diagnosed using mammography in 10 years (compared to 3,133 diagnosed using physical examination), more than 25% of those were likely “over diagnosed.” Over diagnosis refers diagnosis that result in the unnecessary stress of treatment for cancer (or any other illness) that would not have been harmful if untreated. Basically, patients with non-metastasized tumors often received unnecessary care after mammogram diagnosis. Additionally, patients who received annual mammograms had a higher percentage of false positive and negative results. Based on these findings, doctors are now recommending that women 50 years of age or older (who are not at risk for breast cancer based on past diagnosis or genetic predisposition) receive biennial mammograms.
Myth 2: Mammograms do not Use Harmful Amounts of Radiation
Mammograms actually use ionizing radiation, one of the most harmful forms of x-ray radiation. Ionizing radiation is responsible for most cases of cancer developed due to radiation exposure especially in women younger than 30 years of age. The reason cited for this devastating result of ionizing radiation is the destruction of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes. These genes produce proteins that are known to suppress tumor growth. Ionizing radiation technology also produces less accurate readings of dense tissue. Thus, women who have denser breast tissue frequently receive false negatives when relying on mammography only to reveal breast cancer.
Myth 3: Breast Cancer Cannot be Prevented
Like almost any other medical condition, there are steps that can be taken to prevent breast cancer. As a dentist, Dr. David DiGiallorenzo knows firsthand the difference that preventive care can make. Patients who receive twice annual dental checkups and cleanings are much less likely to experience significant tooth decay, severe gum disease, or other dental diseases. The same is true for women who visit their OB/GYN regularly, conduct monthly at-home breast exams, and keep in mind a few lifestyle adjustments that can help keep them healthy including:
- Vitamin D is essential. Ensuring you have the optimal levels of Vitamin D in your diet can reduce your risk of breast cancer 50% or more.
- Vitamin A works in concert with Vitamin D to help destroy cancer causing cells.
- Iodine helps to ensure proper hormone production that creates breast tissue. An iodine deficiency in the body can cause cellular irregularities and tumors in breast tissue.
- Eat real foods without preservatives and additives and make sure to have adequate amounts of flora in your stomach. This will prevent inflammation throughout the body caused by digestive issues, and increase your full body immune response.
If you receive annual mammograms, we encourage you to review the results of the 10 year study and its follow-up study 15 years later in the British Medical Journal. If you are interested in preventive dental care, call the skilled dentistry practitioners at Lanap & Implant Center of Pennsylvania to find out more about caring for your whole body health starting with your smile.