Mammography still the gold standard for early detection
I WAS very disappointed that The Star, a paper of repute, could publish an article pertaining to a particularly important, highly emotional subject and often with regrettable consequences on a scientific matter, on Wednesday June 21, with so many errors and misrepresentation without any obvious attempt to verify the pertinent facts.
First, mammography should never be painful. That is an abuse caused by inadequate training of the technicians and obsolete equipment. It should exert pressure not dissimilar to that (felt) when having a blood pressure examination and nowadays it is computer-controlled and lasts only a few seconds.
The breast is never “squeezed between two X-ray plates” (sic). The mammogram has been used since about the 1970s and has accomplished remarkable improvements to women’s quality of life.
Mammography is still the gold standard for early recognition of breast cancer and that is why so many countries offer this facility as a free service, resulting in overall death rate from breast cancer decreasing despite an average worldwide increase in cancer detection of about 3.2% compounded.
Did your writer verify the missed diagnosis incidence of 1 in 6? That is far too excessive and does not match the published evidence of “false positive” diagnoses.
The bottom line and very important fact is that ultrasound and X-ray generated mammograms produce very different results. Ultrasound cannot diagnose microcalcification and X-rays cannot diagnose cysts for example.
Because of their different specificities, a mammogram examination is not complete without doing both X-ray and ultrasound examinations.
Lying flat face down on a bed with cutouts for the breasts to protrude through has been found to be uncomfortable and the apparatus required to suspend them in a bath of warm water would be expensive to produce and cumbersome to use. The X-ray dose for modern mammography is extremely low and matches the background radiation and is of no consequence. Tens of millions of mammograms are done daily worldwide and no harm from X-rays has ever been reported from their use in mammography. If ultrasound only is used for mammography the total yield of correct diagnosis would be low and a great number of breast cancers would be missed because, for example, many of them present with microcalcification only.
Besides, you state that this “new method” will be tried on 20-39 volunteers. No scientist would accept that as an adequate number of cases to be statistically relevant. Ultrasound usage for breast disease has been used now since about 1975, so it is not new.
I am appealing to you to please publish verifiable and accurate facts when printing scientific articles. I am despairing at the way breast cancer is presented to the public by the media. If the correct protocols are followed, breast cancer becomes an incident, not a life-threatening sentence.
As breast cancer is so common and the lifetime risk in the Western world is approaching 1:7 please encourage women to have regular mammograms.
Early diagnosis and regular mammography results in a cure rate for breast cancer of up to 90% without deforming and extensive surgery.
Publish true facts which would be a good news story that is verifiable. It is time to stop terrifying women with old-fashioned ideas and incorrect facts.
New “cures” and fads occur daily such as thermography, special examination gloves, iridology etc etc but as of now, mammography by well-trained medical professionals remain the best that is available for the ultimate cure of breast cancer.
Mammography and early diagnosis save lives… so far there is nothing better.
‘Please publish verifiable and accurate facts on scientific articles’
Parktown North Mammogram and Bone Density Centre