Yesterday [June 2012] the big news in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, was about radiation from CT scans. And today the AMA is recommending more radiation as a screening test for breast disease.
Our medical authorities are actually recommending mammograms as an annual screening tool for women? Irradiating their breasts with a known cancer-causing agent (radiation) just to figure out whether they might have cancer? This makes no sense to me. Mammography is a good tool, but not for screening for breast cancer.
Dr. Mark Scholtz, oncologist and author of the book Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers is quoted: “There’s going to come a day when there’s better technology available,” he said. “That’s going to make the biggest difference.”
That day is here - and has been here since the advent of infra-red imaging technology in the 1900s. In 1998 a paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology about thermography (they called it High-resolution Digital Imaging). The paper’s conclusion was “high-resolution digital infrared imaging can provide additional safe, practical, and objective information” about early diagnosis of breast disease.
Thermography makes far more sense. Thermography can show inflammation, and if we see inflammation in one breast and not the other, this is an indication that we should be (a) doing something about the inflammation and (b) monitoring closely to make sure the inflammation decreases with time. If inflammation is increasing despite our best efforts at reducing it, then we start thinking about moving forward with other diagnostic tools.
Mammography as a screening tool? OK for localization of a mass - although MRI is more specific and safer. But for annual screening? Bad idea. Bad for the breast tissue. Bad for the breast nerves (hurts). Just a bad idea all around.