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By Johnnie Ham, MD, MBA
Mammography: Are There Pros, or is It Just a Con?
Many women are completely unaware that the science backing the use of
mammograms is sketchy at best. As was revealed in a 2011 meta-analysis by the
Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, mammography breast cancer screening
led to 30 percent overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which equates to an
absolute risk increase of 0.5 percent.
There's also the risk of getting a false negative, meaning that a life-
threatening cancer is missed.
Unfortunately, even though some high-profile people agree that
mammography has limitations as well as dangers, others prefer to ignore the
science and continue to campaign for annual screenings without so much as a
hint at the risks involved.
Now, they’ve unrolled “new and improved” 3D TOMOSYNTHESIS mammogram,
which still requiring mechanical compression, and delivers 30 percent more
In order to make better informed decisions, I provide my patients with
all of their screening options, their strengths and weaknesses, and I
reinforce that they have a right to utilize those options. Some of the
options may include; self and clinical breast exams, thermography, ultrasound
and/or MRI. My role as a doctor is to diagnose and treat, but I am also an
educator. I want my patients' focus to be on prevention to improve their
health and well-being.
The Industry of Cancer
Breast cancer has become big business, starting with the multi-billion
dollar goliath, mammography. No other medical screening has been as
aggressively promoted. My passion is providing integrative primary care as an
MD for hundreds of patients. I also have over 23 combined years of military
experience as an OB/GYN, trauma surgeon, experimental test pilot, and master
My training prepared me to navigate through challenging, and sometimes
life threatening situations. Unfortunately, most women do not have the
training I received, yet they could certainly use some of it to help navigate
through the fear based methods of the breast cancer industry.
The tide of thought on mammography’s benefits is rapidly changing as
evidenced by recently published studies in the Archives of Internal
Medicine, the Lancet Review, the British Medical Journal and the Nordic
Cochrane Center; and the fact that the US Preventative Services Task Force
and the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care.
Why are Nearly All Health Care Professionals Not Following Current Mammogram
Nearly every woman age 40 and older continues to be told by their primary
care physician, their gynecologist, the media, self-proclaimed advocacy
groups, and even their medical insurance carrier, “get your annual
mammogram!” despite the fact that nearly every recent authoritative study
concludes that women should know all of the facts before agreeing to a
mammogram screening. Yet nearly all health care professionals insist on
mammograms. If a woman dare refuse, she may be chastised or worse,
threatened. These efforts have gone beyond persuasion to guilt and even
coercion, “I can’t be your doctor if you don’t get a mammogram.” Women need
to stop this runaway train, not only for their sake, but for the sake of
In November 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study
by Dr Archie Bleyer, MD from The Oregon Health Sciences Center, and his co-
author, Dr H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H., from Dartmouth, challenging the
validity of mammogram screenings and concluded that mammograms have little to
no influence in the reduction of the number of women who ultimately die of
Thirty years of US government data studied found that as many as 1/3 of
cancers detected by mammography may not have been life threatening, and that
over 1 million women have been over-diagnosed; leading to unnecessary
treatments involving disfiguring surgeries; radiation and chemotherapy. They
also showed that mammogram screenings have increased from about 30 percent of
women 40 and older in 1985, to about 70 percent of women screened, proving
how effective we have been at convincing women they need to get a mammogram.
I have witnessed this strategy for decades and I have seen the profound
psychological effect it has had on many of my patients. This paradigm has
seriously misled women regarding the actual effectiveness, and the benefits vs.
potential dangers of mammograms. They also have women confused about the
erroneous belief that mammography is their only tool. Some women actually
believe mammograms can prevent cancer, or do not realize they have the right
to say, no!
Most women comply with the current “gold standard” in fear of the ravages
of breast cancer, convinced their annual mammogram will save their life
through early detection. It is nearly impossible for them to negate decades
of slick marketing, annual reminders from radiology imaging centers and the
exploitation of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month blitz. All of these
efforts beautifully packaged, tied up with a pretty pink ribbon.
I take my oath to do no harm very seriously. After many years of research,
clinical practice; and due to my wife’s personal experience with mammography,
I cannot in good conscience recommend mammograms. I inform mypatients
that mammograms are considered the current “gold standard”, but Ialso make
certain they know the facts about the screening and that there are other screen
Facts and Persisting Concerns: Mammograms
More women are refusing mammograms. This is reflected in the dramatic
decline of 4.3 percent in 2010. Previously, mammography use had increased
annually by 1 percent between 2005 and 2009. Mammograms:
Are incorrect 80 percent of the time (providing a false negative or
Require repeated ionized radiation that can cause cancer
Use compression, which can damage breast tissue or potentially spread
Are not effective for up to 50 percent of women (women with dense
breasts or implants)
Can lead to over-diagnosis and over-treatment of non-invasive cancers
Can lead to the disturbing practice of “preventative” double mastectomies
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
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