October is breast cancer awareness month, and women are encouraged to get yearly mammograms. Millions of women comply, and are lulled into a false sense of security that a yearly mammogram will find the smallest of breast cancers.
Women are led to believe that any cancer found by an annual mammogram would be in the earliest stage, and could be completely removed, in effect curing them of the disease.
That's not the case, says nationally renowned natural health expert Dr. Russell Blaylock. "Many studies have shown that mammograms do not reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer," he tells Newsmax Health.
"For one thing, many cancers begin between scans, and they can be very aggressive. By the time a woman undergoes a yearly mammogram, it can be advanced.
"The number of early cancers found by mammograms aren't that many, and 80 percent of lesions spotted in scans are in situ carcinomas, which are considered benign in behavior," he says.
"Yet many women undergo unnecessary surgery for these lesions found on mammograms."
Most frightening, if a woman does have a cancerous lump, undergoing a mammogram can cause it to spread, says Dr. Blaylock, author of The Blaylock Wellness Report
"If you already have a cancer, in addition to being painful, the crushing compression the breast undergoes during a mammogram can cause the cancer to spread.
"Doctors are taught that once a lump is found, you don't press it — not even during an examination — because you will cause the cancer cells to spread.
"With mammograms, you won't know if there is a breast cancer until after you've read the scan," says Dr. Blaylock. "You've already compressed the breast, and perhaps broken the cancerous capsule, which will cause the cancer to spread."
Women with genetic mutations are most at risk.
"If you have a woman from a family with a history of breast cancer, they likely have either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation," says Dr. Blaylock.
"BRCA1 and BRAC2 are DNA repair enzymes, and when they are mutated, they can't fix the enzymes. So, women who are at high risk for breast cancer can't fix the DNA.
"We know that radiation damages DNA, so if you're radiating them every year with a mammogram and the damage is cumulative, you're actually inducing breast cancer in these women.
"For women who have inflammatory breast cancer, which is the worst type of all, radiation makes it infinitely more aggressive.
"Radiation is inflammatory, and it makes cancers more aggressive and invasive," says Dr. Blaylock. "If you have a cancer and you subject it to more radiation by a mammogram, you're going to damage the DNA even more and make the cancer more aggressive.
"Also, women who are at high risk usually have dense breasts, and a mammogram can't read dense breasts," he says.
"So, women will get a mammogram, and it'll come back 'Cannot read; breast too dense. Repeat in six months.'
"Of course, they still won't be able to read it any better in six months, so recommending another doesn't make sense.
"In addition, doctors tell women who have the BRCA mutation to have mammograms every six months. That doubles their radiation exposure, which is ridiculous."
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine
found that although more women were undergoing regular mammograms, the number of people dying from breast cancer remained the same, and the number of women receiving false positive diagnoses was high.
Another study, published in 2014 in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
, found that more than half of women who underwent mammograms were over-treated.
Dr. Blaylock recommends MRI scans instead of mammograms.
"They are a lot more accurate, more comfortable, and they are safe," he said. In addition to not subjecting the patient to radiation, they do not compress the breast.
"In years past, radiologists complained that they didn't know how to read MRI scans of the breast, but now they are all trained," he said.
Ultrasounds and thermograms can also be used to diagnose breast cancer, says Dr. Blaylock, but ultrasounds can't pick up small cancers, and thermograms are only 60 to 70 percent accurate in finding lesions.
"If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you should probably have an MRI over other diagnostic tests," he said. "The MRI can also read dense breasts."
Unfortunately, breast MRIs are expensive, costing about $1,000 compared to an average of $100 for a mammogram.
If you have breast cancer, many drugs can improve survival rates. Aromatase inhibitors, such as Arimidex, have been shown to perform better than tamoxifen, and a new drug called Abraxane reduces side effects that accompany chemo.
But the problem with drugs is that most cancers come from stem cells, says Dr. Blaylock.
"Breast cancer stem cells, although few compared to other cells, are where the cancer comes from," he says. "The stem cells produce the daughter cells, which we think of as the tumor.
"Chemotherapy will kill the daughter cells, but not the stem cells. So, that's why the cancer will come back five or 10 years later.
"As long as those cancer stem cells are alive, you haven't killed the cancer," he says. "The vast number of cancer drugs do not affect the cancer stem cells, and that's why they are so unsuccessful, especially with those cancers that have spread."
There are no current drugs that kill stem cells, says Dr. Blaylock, but there are nutrients that are effective.
"Curcumin and silymarin can kill and suppress cancer stem cells," he said.
"If a person wants to have chemotherapy, fine, but combine it with nutrients," he advises.
"Numerous studies have shown that when you combine the nutrients with chemo, the chemo becomes infinitely more successful and safer.
"You get a double benefit," he says. "You can use small doses, so you can use less chemo, and the nutrients protect the healthy cells from damage.
"Nutrients make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy and makes normal cells less sensitive."
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