Mammograms Shown to Cause Breast Cancer



Like we have learned in class, there have been instances in history where doctors have been wrong. With every medical decision we make, we have to weigh the pros and cons. Unfortunately, sometimes those "cons" of medical procedures don't become known until it is too late, and people have been negatively affected by it.  Mammograms have been accused as one of those medical procedures.

A mammogram is used to detect "abnormal growths or changes in the breast tissue" according to Web MD. A mammogram is when the breasts are put in compression followed by two x-rays of each breast at different angles. The x-rays then create a picture using a film or digital detector. The fatty tissue from the breast appears as "dark and translucent" and the breast tissue appears as white in the picture.

Mammograms have been used on a regular basis for medical checkups to help detect breast cancer. By using a mammogram, the cancer can be detected in an early stage allowing it to possibly be prevented from getting worse. Web MD stated that, "Research has clearly shown that mammography can increase breast cancer survival."

Many times when I go to the doctor, my mom tells them to take as few x-rays as possible, if none even better.  Especially when I go to the dentist, mostly because they seem to always want to empty our bank accounts for seemingly unnecessary procedures. Why do I need to get more x-rays if I was here just a short while ago and did the exact same thing?! While of course many times it is necessary, I have experienced many doctors where I feel they try to over-do our appointments saying we need this and that.

The reason my mom has never liked me getting x-rays is because they give off radiation to your body. According to Radiation Answers, our bodies can tolerate small doses of radiation such as things we do in everyday life, such as a microwave (unless you stand in front of it way too often.) But, x-rays give off extreme amounts of radiation in high dosages, which can be very harmful to the body. Radiation can cause cancer. So, this brings me to the question of whether mammograms are good for us. Weighing the pros and cons, I still cannot decide. These machines are helping us to detect cancer, but at the same time they are exposing us to cancer.

I was sure I could find research backing up my theory because the two sides just seem like such extreme opposites. For many of my blogs, I have been looking at this websitecalled Natural News because it debunks the speculations about topics that are often unknown by many. It uncovers the cons of those seemingly pro decisions we make in life. I found an opposing viewpoint saying that mammograms have in fact been shown to cause cancer.  

According to Natural News, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force  said earlier this month that woman under 50 years old should specifically avoid mammograms and woman over 50 years old should try to limit them to one every two years. The reasons being that woman at an older age are more likely to get breast cancer, among other medical problems. Many doctors had controversy over this debate. "The low-dose radiation from annual mammography screening significantly increases breast cancer risk in women with a genetic or familial predisposition to breast cancer," according to the Radiological Society of North America. Then another good point was brought up. Naturally, women who have had family members with cancer are more predisposed to getting cancer themselves. This results in those people getting breast exams starting at a younger age. Once again, a medical procedure you think you are doing to help yourself could be only harming you more. How can we decide how to handle our health if there are so many conflicting viewpoints out there given by experts in the field?

A group of scientists did six studies concluding that mammograms do cause breast cancer. "Out of the six studies included in this analysis, four looked at the effect of exposure to low-dose radiation among breast cancer gene mutation carriers. The other two studies traced the impact of radiation on women with a family history of breast cancer." The scientists then used that data to calculate the risk of someone getting breast cancer from radiation.

They found that the women who were exposed to the low-dose radiation had a 1.5 times more chance of getting breast cancer than woman than who had not been exposed. Even more shocking, "women at high risk for breast cancer who had been exposed to low-dose radiation before the age of 20 or who had five or more exposures to low-dose radiation were 2.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than high-risk women not exposed to low-dose radiation."

Examples like these really make me question our medical advances, and if they are really advancing or declining our body. Do the risks outweigh the benefits, or vice versa? It brings the question of whether being able to prevent something before it happens is more important than avoiding something that could happen. What do you guys think?

For those of you who choose not to do regular mammogram checkups, self-breast exams are always a good at home procedure you can do. This is not saying that if you do feel something abnormal, you should not go to the doctor. I won't go into detail the step by step process here, but this website can teach you about it how to do it.,,20191280,00.html



The risks of having a mammogram and the idea that they can actually increase cancer risk reminds me of the case we learned about in class in which the prescribing of antiarrhythmics to people who'd had a heart attack actually increased their risk. This is yet another case in which a preventative measure can actually increase risk rather than work how it is supposed to, with very little risk. However, I think age and risk are two important factors that should be considered before avoiding mammograms for good. ABC News published an article this past April claiming that in women over 40 who are at high risk for breast cancer, the benefits of having a mammogram every other year outweigh the radiation risks. The lead researcher in the study is quoted as saying that "This research provides important new evidence to support the use of personalized, risk-based breast cancer screening approaches". In my opinion, news-makers like this can often cause people to avoid certain treatments and procedures before understanding whether they fit into the benefit or risk category.
As you mentioned at the end of your blog, I agree that that self-breast exams are still the best approach to breast cancer prevention and detection. Continuing to educate women about this will continue to be a key part of prevention.

For starters, I have some issues with the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force's recommendation that women over 50 should get mammograms. I have been told by both my family doctor and my gynecologist that I should start getting mammograms at around 28, despite the fact that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 40s.

Despite all that, I believe that the benefits of getting a mammogram outweigh the risks. Also, science has been able to create many advancements when it comes to cancer screenings, such as digital mammography, despite the fact that there is still some element of radiation associated with it. Digital mammograms are actually better for women who are younger than 50, women who have dense breasts, and women who have not yet gone through menopause. Digital mammograms also have an advantage, because they expose people to less radiation.

In addition to that, breast MRIs are becoming more widely used, because they can actually help aid doctors and patients. Those are used for people who have been already diagnosed with breast cancer, and doctors want to look at the extent of the cancer, and if its spread beyond the reaches of what a traditional mammogram would show. They're also used for people who find lumps in their breasts, but the lumps do not show up on a mammogram. However, the breast MRI is no alternative for a traditional mammogram.

Will science eventually be able to come up with a safer way to get an X-ray? At this rate, it's starting to seem like everything causes cancer. Was there also a link between dental X-rays and cancer?

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