2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Mammogram Controversy

As if we didn’t have enough health concerns to worry about, with H1N1 flu in our midst, health insurance reform bills in the Senate, and the specter of no insurance as a consequence of the recession.

Now mammograms.

The new recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed group of national experts, recently advised the Department of Health and Human Services that unless a woman is at unusual risk for developing breast cancer, she could begin getting mammograms after age 50, rather than starting at the previous age 40. Moreover, annual mammograms were no longer necessary. Every other year was fine.

This recommendation was actually made two years ago by the American College of Physicians (internal medicine specialists) and the National Breast Cancer Coalition (a patient advocacy group). However, it’s at odds with the American Cancer Society, other physician groups, and Kathleen Sebelius, newly appointed head of the Department of Health and Human Services. They all believe the current recommendations should not be changed.

The main reasons for the changes are straightforward:
Although women between 40 and 50 do develop breast cancer, during this decade the condition is uncommon enough that the entire population does not need annual screening.
Currently, there are too many false-positive test results–especially in 40-to-50 age group–with women undergoing unnecessary surgical procedures or receiving treatment for cancers that don’t exist.

With more than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year, women have every right to be concerned about this controversial recommendation. I’ve received emails from patients wondering if the new guidelines reflect a first step in government cost-cutting or collusion with insurance companies to trim benefits and increase profits.

Right up front, let me say neither is the case. Insurance companies are mandated by law to cover annual screening mammograms regardless of a woman’s age. Nothing’s going to change this.

On the other hand, many women have been concerned about the possibility of increasing their breast cancer risk by having annual mammograms. In fact mammograms are performed with very low-intensity radiation and no study has ever shown increased risk from mammograms, even among women with high genetic susceptibility (those who have the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genetic mutation) and/or very strong family histories of breast cancer. Early chest x-rays (before age 30) do slightly increase breast cancer risk, but only among BRCA patients.

Most doctors, including me, are happy with the new recommendations. Although we feel mammograms remain the gold standard for diagnosing breast cancer, among women of normal risk every other year is fine.

Here’s what I recommend:
No matter how young you are, if you feel you need a mammogram, either because of something you felt during breast self-examination or simple anxiety, get a screening mammogram.
If you come from a family where a lot of women developed breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you should be followed at one of the comprehensive breast cancer centers and tested for BRCA genetic susceptibility. In the Chicago area, I recommend the one at Rush University Medical Center.
Before age 50, you can rely on a combination of preventive measures (healthy diet with cruciferous veggies, soy, breast self-exams, limited alcohol, no tobacco, adequate vitamin D, selenium, and green tea as a beverage or supplement). For a good combination supplement, created by a breast specialist, click here. For screening, consider a thermogram, which exposes you to no radiation at all.
After age 50, continue your healthy lifestyle and begin every-other-year screening mammograms. You’ll still have an annual “by hand” breast exam at the time of your Pap smear. In the years between mammograms, you can get a thermogram if you like.

Leave a Comment


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • Brain Fog and What To Do About It, Part 1

    You can’t remember the name of the Netflix movie you saw just last night, literally hours ago. And that actor–what was his name? He was in, you know, that other movie. You think it was a thriller, but maybe a war movie. Then you get a notice from Verizon that they’re turning off your phone for nonpayment. But you’re pretty sure you handled it. Variations Read More

  • Protecting Yourself From Overdiagnosis

    Bill, a healthy looking guy in his mid-40s, came to WholeHealth Chicago because he wanted to get off Lipitor, the widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug. Bill had virtually no risks for heart disease and all four of his grandparents were still alive and quite independent, but a few years ago his cholesterol was on the high side and his doctor insisted on the Lipitor. Arthur has Read More

  • Dying In A Leadership Vacuum: The NEJM Editorial in Context

    By now, you’ve probably read that the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an editorial entitled “Dying In A Leadership Vacuum” that asks Americans to work together to vote out Donald Trump because of his dreadful mismanagement of Covid-19 and the subsequent deaths of more than 220,000 Americans. To call the editorial scathing would be putting it mildly. If you don’t Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!