May 2012
Volume 11 Issue 5

Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy [Paperback] By Peter C. Gotzsche, MD

Women often ask me how they should explain to their doctor why they do not want a mammogram. Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy may help. I consider Dr. Gotzsche the world’s foremost expert on mammography research. His book is about ethics in medicine and the influence of self-interest, power, and money on scientific publication. Dr. Gotzsche correctly describes many of the people behind current recommendations for mammogram as liars involved in scientific misconduct that has killed and maimed millions of women. His work shows that routine mammograms (1) do not save women’s lives, (2) increase the number of women over-diagnosed with cancer (they would never have known they were sick if not for the mammogram testing), and (3) increase a women’s chance of having a mastectomy.

Dr. Gotzsche started his work on breast cancer screening (mammograms) in 1999 and has been published in most of the relevant major medical journals since then. He is a Danish medical researcher, and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has written numerous reviews within the Cochrane collaboration, which is considered by most doctors as the most unbiased source of medical reviews.

If you have been reading the news, then you are well aware that screening for prostate cancer in men with the PSA test has fallen into disrepute. For example, on Monday, May 25, 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) put forth its final recommendations for men of all ages to stop getting this test done. The reasons are that this test, and the treatments that follow, fail to save lives and cause tremendous harm for the 20 million American men who get tested each year. After treatment, men are commonly left with urinary leakage and erectile dysfunction. Some also are killed by treatment.

Breast cancer in women is analogous to prostate cancer in men. These diseases share the same environmental causes (the Western diet), natural history of growth (about 10 years before the cancer is big enough to find), and treatment failures. I predict these similarities will continue and that within the next 3 years most health organizations worldwide will condemn mammograms.

I especially enjoyed the book because it served as a great review of the science I have been following in the medical journals over the past three decades. Even back then, the research was so sufficiently convincing that in 1985 I wrote in my book McDougall’s Medicine—A Challenging Second Opinion that, “…teaching women to follow a low-fat diet is a more sensible approach to preventing breast cancer deaths than annual mammography, and a better way to spend our limited health dollars.” These words are even truer today. But money still rules.

This book is very technical and will mostly appeal to readers interested in a detailed story of flawed science and crooked researchers. The evidence will sway most doctors, causing them to stop harping on you to get a mammogram. You might expect medical doctors to act more ethically than the rest of us humans, especially when it comes to something as personal as the female breast. But they don’t and won’t until forced to by work, such as Dr. Gotzsche’s new book.

The matters surrounding all this forced testing are made worse because physicians are graded on performance based on how many mammograms and other screening tests that they order, and patients are penalized if they do not participate in recommended early detection programs. For example, Brenda recently sent me this e-mail: "At my job I am hounded by the health advocacy division to participate in their Health Preventative Program which includes clinical breast cancer screening, mammography, colorectal cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, etc. I wrote them many letters and told them I will not be taking any prescreening tests. The penalty is that I will have to pay $200.00 each extra annually for health insurance for my husband and myself. A penalty for taking a stand for myself!" My response to Brenda was: "Fight your company and their Health Preventative Program for all of our sakes." If she insists that they read Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy by Dr. Gotzsche (especially with the encouragement of a good attorney), she will change the practice of medicine in her community, help her fellow workers, and save her company a bunch of money. And the $200.00 extra premium penalty she has been awarded by her company for her sensible behavior will be removed (hopefully with an apology and a few words of gratitude).

I purchased my copy of Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy at Amazon.



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Dr. McDougall's Health and Medical Center
P.O. Box 14039, Santa Rosa, CA 95402