April 2005

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« Terri Schiavo R.I.P. Part III: The Brain Speaks | Main | i-Mammo Part II: Breasts, Lies and Videotapes »



OK, this sounds interesting. Does digital mamography exist yet? Where?


CBB: Dr. John Bailer has claimed that mammography causes breast cancer. Do you agree?


As a former cath lab nurse I have seen the differences in cines vs digital angio images and as a primary care NP, have viewed CXRs on a PACS system at the VA - so was quite aware of how digital images could be magnified and manipulated. Thus, I was an informed consumer when I went for my first mammogram 3 years ago when I turned 40. I was at UCLA outpt radiology - when the rad tech started to do my imaging I asked if it was digital. She said no. I asked to have the digital mammo done - she said something to the effect of "why?, it hasn't been shown to be any better". I insisted on digital imaging and she reluctantly moved me to the room where the digital machine was. Since I have relocated to No. CA, guess I will have to request a copy of the CD. I would recommend that all women request a copy of the CD to keep themselves - especially if you anticipate job changes or relocations that may affect your insurance or where your subsequent studies are performed. That way you can have your images readily available for comparison should there be a new lesion or questionable area on subsequent imaging.


curious: stay tuned for next post


Since mammmography involves x-ray radiation, and this is a known cancer-causing agent, many people have worried a lot about whether mammography causes cancer.

There are a lot of tricky ways people use to prove that mammography causes cancer. The most common is to estimate the average dose a person in Hiroshima received during the WWII bombing, then calculate the % of people who got cancer after Hiroshima, then calculate the risk of cancer per given dose.

This figure is then extrapolated to mammography and YOUR risk of cancer is calculated for the dose you receive.

This method is obviously only a risk assessment, and not proof of causation.

All that being said, large important studies -- done very carefully -- have shown that mammography saves lives.

But your concerns are important. All women (all PEOPLE) need to wake up and understand that x-rays are cancer-causing agents. And the radiation for x-rays is a CUMULATIVE agent. The effects of radiation ADD up in your body and never go backwards. So your lifetime exposure is important.

Most people never receive enough of this radiation to be a concern, but no x-ray or CT scan (which also uses x-rays) should ever be taken lightly.

Finally, modern mammography machines use a clever technique that generates "soft" x-rays which are less harmful.

Bottom line? You are much, much more likely to die from breast cancer than to suffer any effect from mammography. An informed person would never skip a mammogram for fear of risking cancer caused by the procedure.


Stay tuned. Digital mammo machines are 8x more expensive. Right now, the imaging community says the cancer detection rates are equal, but all things considered, I feel, FFDM is more desirable,and there is NO doubt that ten years from now people will be using their plain x-ray analog systems as door stops.


Many women with normal breasts undergo a sometimes painful and stressful mammogram, followed by other tests or an expensive and unpleasant biopsy. It is possible that some women may even undergo unnesessary breast removal, though I hope that this is rare. On occasion such unexpected medical bills lead to uninsurability or even bankruptcy.
Biopsies are expensive. How much does a breast MRI cost?


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