Articles, Blog

9 out of 10 Women Misinformed about Mammograms

August 25, 2019


[Music] selling cancer screening can be easy starts an editorial in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute induce fear by exaggerating risk then offer hope by exaggerating the benefit of screening and don’t mention harms caused by the screening this ploy is especially easy with cancer no diagnosis is more dreaded and we all know the mantra early detection is the best protection doubt it and someone may suggest you need your head examined and they are not exaggerating screening can lead to important benefits but it can also lead to important harms and so that’s the big challenge conveying the counterintuitive idea that screening doesn’t always help and can even be harmful yet surveys have shown that most people believe that cancer screening is almost always a good idea and few believe harm is impossible in patient education materials passing references to potential harms may deceptively be buried under a euphoria of benefits the cancer screening test that has been most carefully studied is mammograms in the past 50 years more than 600,000 women have participated in 10 randomized trials given this extraordinary research effort it’s ironic that mammograms continue to be one of the most contentious issues within the medical community there are a few things in medicine that invoke more passion than mammograms with both sides ironically accusing the media of being in the opposite camp but this contentiousness is in itself instructive I mean it should tell us something for context a single study involving fewer than 150 men who were followed for less than two years was sufficient to convince physicians of the value of treating severe high blood pressure because the benefits were just so obvious whereas after 10 trials 600,000 women the fact that we’re still debating the merits of mammograms 50 years later suggests that it’s a close call between the benefits and harms but that’s assuming people are weighing the pros and cons objectively it may be worse than that given the multi-billion dollar industries involved from the mammogram machine manufacturers to the radiologists that read them several organizations publish contradictory cancer screening recommendations some say mammograms starting at age 40 others say 50 some say every year some say every other year and some say women shouldn’t get them routinely at all there’s increasing concern that these disagreements may be arising from both financial and emotional conflicts of interest people can get so invested in their position that they’ve staked out that the kind of clouds their judgment reasonable experts agree that the body of evidence suggests that there is some benefit to mammography although the benefits have almost certainly been exaggerated this does not mean that mammograms don’t save lives or that women shouldn’t get them the question is do the benefits outweigh the risks that’s the decision each woman has to make for themselves but they can’t do that without knowing all the facts women are so bombarded with information about mammograms you think women would be fairly knowledgeable about it yet nothing is farther from the truth 9 out of 10 women surveyed vastly overestimated the benefits or had no idea it’s not the woman’s fault though they’re obviously being misinformed by the system most American women didn’t even appear to understand the basic concept of screening thinking mammograms somehow help prevent you from getting breast cancer in the first place this raises doubts about how well women are being informed sounds like women are just being told what they should do but without being given the facts necessary to make informed decisions as a result of this paternalism and pink ribbon culture almost all women have a false impression of the benefit of mammography screening most surprisingly those who frequently consulted their physicians and health pamphlets were slightly worse informed so they were like anti educated by their doctors and the problem is that these kinds of inaccurate and exaggerated perceptions prevent women from making an informed choice misleading women whether intentionally or unintentionally is a serious issue all of those in the business of informing women about screening should recall that medical systems are for patients not the other way around we should not just blindly be selling screening we should be giving people the numbers they need to decide for themselves that’s why I created this video series the question of whether screening mammography does more harm than good has the potential to shake up the state of our medical knowledge alter our views of ethical medical practice the stakes are high in this discourse because women’s lives hang in the balance [Music] you

68 Comments

  • Reply Hiddden Hedge January 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Yikes!

  • Reply Raw Recovery January 22, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Stay healthy everyone!!

  • Reply Lichtblick January 22, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Early detection is a scam!

  • Reply patty 8873 January 22, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you Dr. Greger! I’ve been waiting ages for you to tackle this topic. It’s so controversial it seems no one wants to touch it.

  • Reply Initial commit! January 22, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Thoughts on Matt Dillahounty?

  • Reply Terrie Smith January 22, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you. We needed this video.

  • Reply Lichtblick January 22, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Women get breast cancer because of the animal products they eat!

  • Reply Let us be Heroes January 22, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you, how about dental x rays?

  • Reply B C January 22, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Good information. I’ve forwarded this to women I know and care about. 🙂

  • Reply haku January 22, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    THANK U DR.GREGOR U ARE A LIKE A LIGHTHOUSE OF HONEST MEDICAL AND NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION IN THE STORM OF CAPITALISM AND CONSEQUENT CORRUPTION THAT PERMEATES THIS WORLD

  • Reply April Hall January 22, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    When I told my doctor that I didn't want to get a mammogram, she proceeded to try to induce fear, telling me she's seen them save lives, how I'd be more subject to the horrors of surgery, chemo, radiation to treat a cancer not found early, and death! I wasn't prepared for such push back on my decision, and didn't get into my concerns about over-diagnosis and over-treatment.

    She did a manual exam of my breasts, then said she'd "felt something suspicious". I'm quite certain that if I hadn't declared my disinclination to the mammogram she so much wanted me to get, she wouldn't have "felt something suspicious". I have dense, fibrocystic lumpy breasts, always have. I will be changing my doctor.
    I'm more concerned about being erroneously diagnosed and unnecessarily treated than I am of actual cancer.
    I have to wonder if physicians are pushed to push screening, like maybe get a bonus for sending more women for mammograms, or have a quota to reach.

  • Reply Pickle Beaker! January 22, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Fear mongering has always paid top $$$$

  • Reply Q. .Q January 22, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    So what risks are involved with using mammograms for screening?

  • Reply Donna Roberts January 22, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Looking forward to a follow-up by Dr. Gregor on this. Just the facts would be nice.

  • Reply Sunghee Lee January 22, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    I love you, Dr. Greger! Thank you!!

  • Reply Emily BH January 22, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I remember reading a small article in the "New York Times" in the 1990s that ADMITTED Mammograms do more to cause cancer than prevent it. Of course it should have been front page news. Probably the fact that the cancer industry was the second largest contributor to the gross national product (GNP) had something to do with it. It would behoove people to AVOID medical doctors unless you feel sick. Regular check-ups are a scam and just a money maker for the doctors. If people want a SAFE alternative to mammograms, do a THERMOGRAM. If you want to be healthy go to the kind of doctors that specialize in health which are naturopathic doctors N.Ds or N.M.D.s or find an experienced herbalist. Nature has a cure for all ills and the Herbalist knows them.

  • Reply labradorluvable January 22, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I've been hounded by (well-meaning?) scheduling staff to get my "overdue" mammogram because I don't want to get one every year. Perhaps the staff is being pressured as well?

  • Reply JE Hoyes January 22, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    As far as I’m aware, in the UK, the health service invites women for mammograms every five years after age fifty. And then these screenings stop after age 65 (I think), unless there are reasons to continue monitoring. That seems about balanced for risks and benefit.

  • Reply Idylchatter January 22, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    There is a great deal of money invested in mammography units, I think a used one runs around 3/4 of a million. Someone has to pay for this investment and that someone is you. You can legally refuse a mammography and some women opt for thermography which some claim is even more predictive of earlier signs of angiogenesis beginning to feed abnormal tissue growth or tumors. http://www.breastthermography.com/
    Breastthermography.com is dedicated to providing information on breast thermography, risk assessment, breast cancer, early detection, prevention and ultimately the preservation of the breast and the survival of women.

    Current research has determined that the key to breast cancer survival rests upon its earliest possible detection. If discovered in its earliest stages, 95% cure rates are possible. Our center is dedicated to providing one of the most important adjunctive breast imaging procedures available. See What Patients are Saying and What Doctors are Saying.

    Thermography may also be used for full body imaging. Our center provides full body thermography for the detection of thermal markers that may alert your doctor to a current or future problem. For more information please visit our full body thermography site at www.thermographyonline.com

  • Reply xkukubax January 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    What I miss in the video is what are the risk factors of mammography besides the ethical.

  • Reply G Kuljian January 22, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Early detection has no comparison to early prevention. By the time we see the problem, it's already mature.

  • Reply Vegan For The Animals Ⓥ January 22, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Pam Popper has a lot of videos on this subject….also other subjects, such as colonoscopies, etc….check out her channel

  • Reply LadyFyre January 22, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Could you do a thing on eating dates and labor?

  • Reply Closing the Loop January 22, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Just bring your breasts to me. I'll examine them for free

  • Reply Michael Bradley January 22, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    The late discovery of the brain tumour I carry which was induced (high contrast CT scan) by the medical profession I trusted convinced me that when I was told I had months to live I just didn't believe the timeline they gave me, 7 years later I'm still here even though they said it was too late to treat me I used "alternative medicine" to stop the tumor growth and reverse the symptoms, no sugar and turmeric then Vegan. Best treatment.

  • Reply Felicitas Kemmsies January 22, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Excellent initiative! Thank you for shedding light on these topics! They are all very relevant, even if not directly related to nutrition.

  • Reply Amber Eller January 22, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Dr. Greger! I'd love to see a video on the pros and cons of mammograms.

  • Reply Fanny Bass January 22, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    I stopped having mammograms, I trust my vegan diet.

  • Reply Robert Bowes January 22, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Segue to thermography?

  • Reply Elīza Briede January 22, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    in a singing voice "Cancer business – making women breast-less"

  • Reply Dick Tchairdjian January 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    So what are the negatives??? You never mentioned them!

  • Reply Eelke Aptroot January 22, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    So one of the reasons breast cancer used to be the nr.1 killer cancer of Dutch women is both due to and despite early detection. I could be like thank heavens I'm not a woman, however from what I understand similar issues arise with prostate cancer. What used to the nr.1 cancer for men in Holland however, most recently both have been beaten out by colon cancer with is gender indifferent. And all could be prevented by eating plant-based, how extreme…

  • Reply Sidilicious January 22, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    I couldn't get the links to work.

  • Reply rae raz`el January 22, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I feel that mammogram are overrated and are causing harm to women especially when your doctor recommends them every year beginning at age forty- the extra exposure to radiation is helping the process of breast cancer – Since the average age is 62 when women are diagnosed with it and exposed to radiation over 20 years. Doing your breast checks at home are more important than the mammogram

  • Reply Ilona Hawser January 22, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you, as always, for such an informative and important video.

  • Reply tamcon72 January 22, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    That women could be conditioned to endanger their lives through medical tests that target their deepest health fears due to industry propaganda is outrageous. Perhaps we all have outrage fatigue? TFP.

  • Reply wadayaduin January 22, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    False positives, false negatives, pressure breaking open otherwise harmless cysts, radiation's possible effects, early detection never being truly early enough. Even if the mammogram is accurate, positive, and somehow magically early enough, you're then locked into the mainstream medical system of chemo, radiation, and surgery, each fraught with their own problems.

  • Reply Diary of a food addict January 22, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    I will never get a mammogram. I do self checks and I would do thermography over a mammogram any day.

  • Reply Swankster January 22, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    So what are the HARMS of mammograms?

  • Reply Kathy Fausett January 22, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Informed consent hasn't been considered to be important in the past because people assumed that their docs already considered the risk/benefit of every kind of care.  Turns out that hasn't been the case regardless of whether you're talking about mammography, vaccines, or any number of other procedures.  Let the buyer beware, and hope they have enough accurate information to choose best.

  • Reply Little Voice January 22, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    A deep dive on intermittent fasting (incl. 16 hour daily fast – 1 meal per day) and also the low carb /keto but vegan diets are topics worth doing a little further digging on

  • Reply LegacyEvoAce January 22, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Calcium chloride in food good or bad?

  • Reply thisisbs808 January 22, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Very interesting. But it leaves me with some questions. What those risksare were not mentioned. And when he mentioned the importance of knowing the numbers so people can make informed decisions, no mention of what the numbers are or where to find them. Would love to hear more on this topic with even more informaiton.

  • Reply Isabel January 22, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Maybe I missed it, but what are the risks associated with screening for cancer?

  • Reply C Adams January 22, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Greger! We’re awesome!

  • Reply Blue Skies January 22, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Empty talk. Better tell me why not to screen

  • Reply victory Leo January 22, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    How about Reverse osmosis water people on a few video say it bad to use

  • Reply Marike van der Graaf January 22, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    in my opinion the perfect mix!

  • Reply Flower Bin January 22, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Dr. John Mcdougall also has public information regarding the brutality of breast cancer screening and treatment. It is a law in California that women must be informed of the risks before treatment. He helped make that law. Dr. GREGOR is not alone in this opinion

  • Reply Candice Griffin Ⓥ January 22, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Yes !!!!  Most screenings are basically bunk!!    Prevention for the animals! lol

  • Reply kingmike40 January 23, 2018 at 12:17 am

    My mother had COPD for 6 years and in the last 2 years of her life she wasn't able to walk and it was hard for her to do the basic task. For some reason I had to take her to the doctor to get a mammogram. Her doctor knew of her health problems and didn't have long to live but non the less they gave her a mammogram. Even if she had breast cancer she wouldn't survive the treatments so what was the point.

  • Reply Frozen518 January 23, 2018 at 12:32 am

    Please touch on Pap Smears and other "womanly" exams as well. Please please please. I feel as though these tests do more harm than good or at least I'm unaware of the risks vs benefits. No one talks about them and as a 25 year old, I'm constantly being pressured to get them. Help!

  • Reply Gloria Wooten January 23, 2018 at 1:41 am

    I'm due for my annual mammogram. What are the risks? What should I know?

  • Reply Doctor Ni Una Dieta Más January 23, 2018 at 2:09 am

    Metformin and low carb = no breast cancer. Thanks Dr

  • Reply m0L3ify January 23, 2018 at 3:29 am

    I'm a woman who used to do breast cancer research, and I HATE pink ribbon culture. It's a sham. It makes the general public feel better because it provides the illusion that they're doing something to combat a problem they feel like they have no control over. But it's all about money. Companies use it as a 'health halo' to sell carcinogenic product, ultimately killing more people, and some charity organizations have turned cancer into a brand and can actually end up working against their purported ultimate goal. Are they all bad? No. But it's a far from perfect way to fund research. They are all in so much competition with each other not only for money, but also to cure their favorite type of cancer first, that they'll reject grant applications for experimental treatments that can potentially cure more than one type of cancer. A cure for breast cancer? GREAT! A cure for breast cancer AND small-cell carcinoma? NOPE! The logic is: if one charity works hard to raise millions of dollars, and then that money inadvertently benefits another organization, that other organization has effectively stolen their hard-won donations. The rigors of science dictate that researchers must test experimental treatments on more than one type of cell line to be considered valid and viable, but if you're submitting a grant application to, say, a breast cancer charity and you note that the treatment is also effective on, say, melanoma or prostate cancer… boom. Into the trash it goes. They're not looking for a cure for cancer. They're looking for a cure for THEIR cancer. This is why government funding is so vital. But in the US that has severely dried up over the last decade, and labs are increasingly forced to look to charities and industry for funding or they go tits up (pun intended.) I have lost jobs this way. It happens all the time. You want less bias in your research? Fund the NIH. And, of course, all that doesn't even get into all the crap that goes on behind the scenes in research departments. The politics, the back stabbing, the tunnel vision that ignores really pertinent information, the resentment, the jealousy, the greed. You can have a miracle drug in your hand, but if the organization you work for can't profit off it when it hits the market because of patent licensing restrictions, forget ever getting them to spend a penny on it. Especially if they're a religious non-profit. Yeah. Seeing that stuff happen around you will consume your soul. There's more profit from *trying* to cure cancer than actually curing it. I went in to that job with naive stars in my eyes and left jaded and fed up when I quit.

  • Reply Kimberly Gough January 23, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Do the deep dive please.

  • Reply TheLaly37 January 23, 2018 at 11:16 am

    I live in the Netherlands and had pain in my breast . I am vegan and I have been strongly advise to have a mammography. What shall I do. Where can I find more info. I am doubting it now…

  • Reply Tech Tins January 23, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    No one ever seems to mention how brutal and painful these mammograms are.

  • Reply Vicky Manson January 23, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    I made the mistake of going to a private ob-gyn recently, who ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound of my breasts upon seeing I had recently turned 40. I asked why both? She said 'just to be sure you don't have cancer' – which was not a reassuring justification. I walked away saying I would have neither. Out of curiosity, I asked the reception how much they'd cost – well there were too many zero's on that total cost, so no wonder they want to 'be sure' to make a profit by scaring people with the word 'cancer'.

  • Reply Amanda Dangerfield January 24, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    "Each woman has to decide for herself", not "each woman has to decide for themselves." 🙂

  • Reply sagranate sagranate January 25, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    What about cervical screenings? Please do a video on this. Thank you Dr Greger 🙂

  • Reply Vegan M January 25, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    For profit health care can rarely be trusted.

  • Reply heymisterderp January 26, 2018 at 8:21 am

    The only action items associated with testing are conventional treatments. No prevention, no lifestyle changes or protocols. Is there even any measure of growth rate (doubling time et al) measured without treatment? That is, can a patient test for cancer, get a diagnosis, but refuse treatment and then follow up with further screening in x, y, z months? Or is that against the rules? I know the advertising will say they're stupid and their doctor will advise against it, but can they do it anyway? If this combination was prevalent I would have thought I'd have heard of it by now. If one doesn't like the treatments does screening make sense at all, benefits and risks of screening aside? Is screening little more than a bridge to treatment, or is it nothing more?

  • Reply B. January 31, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you for the post Dr.Gregor.

  • Reply Gabriela M February 3, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    What would we do with out you. Once again, thank you for what you do for us! ❤

  • Reply Harold jitschak Bueno de mesquita May 22, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for bringing u this issue where doctors seem to be blinded by the profits of this industry

  • Reply helle hansen April 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Well it would be just as, or more helpful, if Dr. Greger then also told what the cons and disadvantages are. It´s all very good saying their are cons, but it´s not very helpful if we´re not told what those cons are.

  • Reply nomad93 June 16, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    I guess, since I'm on a very low fat, plant based diet, I don't need to have mammograms.

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