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« What a Way to Start the Work Week! A Totally Unexpected Perfect Rock & Siegel Healthy Mind Platter Day! Focused Work, Plant-Based Meals, Play Time, Exercise, Connect Time, Down Time and Sleep | Main | The Rest of the Breast Cancer & Mammography Story - Does Diet Matter in Breast Cancer? Advice from MD Anderson Cancer Center Dietitians. Plus, the Annals of Internal Medicine's Latest Research on Screening Mammography's Risks & Benefits »

October 29, 2011



The mammogram-breast cancer information trends pretty well with the PSA-prostate cancer information- a few are saved, a large number over-treated, and most who are screened and/or treated do not in fact benefit. I have worked with cultured cancer cells and can tell you that if they are aggressive, they do not wait to spread until the tumor can be felt. As soon as a few cells can break off into the bloodstream and go elsewhere, if they have the right mutations, they will. Slow-growing lumps that will not go anywhere are easy to find and treat. Tiny clumps of cells that grow and spread fast ... almost impossible to find in time.
I'll probably have one mammogram (if they can't find a better screening test by then) between ages 55 and 60, unless I find a symptom beforehand. My mom had a very painful mammogram at 55, and picked up a nasty skin infection from the machine. She says she'll never have another, and she'll probably be fine. Being familiar with your own body, and treating it properly with rest, exercise and food, are the best possible preventions.

The Healthy Librarian

Thanks, Mitzi.

You're comment is even more enlightening & helps us all to better understand what screening mammograms are capable of. Thanks for sharing your professional experience.

Shirley @ gfe

I personally know family members whose aggressive breast cancer was only detected via mammogram. Had they not had the mammogram, they would not be alive today. The overall statistics really don't matter when you or a loved one are in fact one of the ones saved. That said, I'd love to NOT have mammograms. Now (at age 55) I alternate mammography with thermography and my gynecologist is okay with that approach. My mom is in remission from breast cancer so I don't feel I can stick my head in the sand and go by statistics. Finally, I agree that little is done in they way of education/promotion prevention of breast cancer or ANY cancer. The focus is on "the cure," when in reality prevention is the biggest part of the solution.



I don't know whether screening mammography saved my life or not, but it did spare me the need for chemotherapy. I regard this as a huge advantage, but I never see this, or the possibility of avoiding radiation treatment, mentioned as possible benefits of early diagnosis. My breast cancer was an invasive lobular (not ductal) cancer, 1.8 cm when found, not palpable. It did not appear on the mammogram for the previous year. Sooner or later it would have grown large enough to be palpable, or it would have been picked up an a later mammogram had I skipped the mammogram that year. Maybe (probably?) it could have been treated successfully at that point -- but that treatment would have included chemotherapy. And it might have included radiation if I'd had positive lymph nodes by then. As it was, I had a mastectomy (hence no need for breast radiation) and sentinal lymph node biopsy, followed by two years of tamoxifen and 3 years of arimidex. I consider myself extremely lucky. It's been almost 7 years since diagnosis and so far there is no evidence of recurrence.


CNN: "Does diet really matter in breast cancer?"

"And the answer is a resounding yes. To get you the best possible information, I turned to registered dietitians Sally Scroggs, MS,RD,LD, and Clare McKinley, RD,LD, at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the leading cancer hospitals in the world. They explained that breast cancer risk could be decreased by up to 38% through lifestyle factors including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. In fact, less than 10% of breast cancer appears to have a genetic basis."

The article goes on to cite other experts


Excellent compilation of this material! Dr. H. Gilbert Welch's wife is a breast cancer survivor which makes his recommendations against screening mammograms all the more compelling. I highly recommend his book "Overdiagnosed" which has some eye opening information about all of the screening tests.


My experience (I live in Germany):
I had an aggressive form of breastcancer at age 34 (invasive ductal, G3, Ki67 70%: really aggressive).
It was a lump of 3cm and I found it myself (I was too young for screening anyway).
To the astonishment of all and despite enlarged lymphnodes, the lymphnodes where free. (At that time an extensive lymphadenektomy was standard and I suffer still from this procedure: oedema and problems with pain and lack of strength).
I had a mastektomie and three months of chemotherapy (because of the aggressiveness).
That was 17 years ago and I decided against mammograms (I had about 2 or 3 in all these years, when I was forced to submit for reasons of medical insurance in connection with certain procedures). In the first years after diagnosis I opted for sonogramms which makes sense in my case as I have very small breasts.
Except in very rare instances I don't believe screening makes a difference.
But as one can read in the comments here, the decisions seem to be very personal.

Thank you for your posts! I am always happy to find something new to read in your blog.
Can't wait for the Esselstyn oil free update (broad hint).

The Healthy Librarian

I can't thank you all enough for all of your thoughtful comments to this post--the ones sent directly to me--and those that you generously shared on the blog.

I'm away from home all day today--with no time to write, but I want to make sure those who read comments absolutely follow Doug's link to the CNN article written by an MD Anderson physician--with the help of 2 MD Anderson dietitian's.

MD Anderson is the #1 cancer hospital in the U.S.

I'll post the full article tonight or tomorrow since many don't read comments.

"Does Diet Really Matter in Breast Cancer?"

Gael Clauson

I first heard of Dr. Welch on a podcast here...

What he said made perfect sense to me both regarding mammograms and prostate screenings.

He spoke about how the medical technology industry has revved up for these screenings and will probably not back down. Big pharma joined the club and together, they are a force not to be tampered with. There is too much money and too much business to be had, but thank goodness, we have some truthful voices out there that help us make our decisions.

Personally, I have walked through the fire of a mis-diagnosis, a biopsy that found nothing, and all the anxiety that went along with all those weeks of torturous stress.

I still have mammograms, but only every other year. My doc is very careful and thorough with my breast exams as am I.

My plant-strong diet and my exercise routines have given me added confidence but no one is bullet-proof. It's a slippery slope out there but ultimately we have to make our own decisions...we are responsible.

With excellent, current information presented here on your site along with truth-seekers like Dr. Welch, the medical field is not so mysterious anymore. Thank you once again, Deb.


Nurse thank you for your blog. I am always affected by what you share. A few years ago at age 40 my first mammo detected the lump I'd felt 10 years prior (I had no health insurance at that time so my relationship to my body through touch was all I had). That first mammo resulted in being "diagnosed" with possible phyllodes tumor or fibro-adenoma (normal breast density as it was explained to me). It was also "explained" by the most de-humanized robot surgeon that it might never be determined, even under microscope post-op, what the "lump" might be. Due to this vague maybe diagnosis, I resisted lumpectomy and a few years later wonder if I am the "over-diagnosed." I have my yearly mammo and sonogram, and regularly touch my lump that I first felt over 15 years ago. I don't have doctor-worship that would have me get the lumpectomy. It made me think they wanted to just be safe and not get sued for malpractice, it all felt so vague and unclear. The research you share at least makes me feel like I'm not crazy! Thank you for the constant reminder to eat well and plant-based and to exercise VIGOROUSLY. It is what makes us alive.


My sister in law had a clean mammogram in June of 2004; in September of that year she was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, and she died in March of 2005. The mammogram did not find her cancer.

The Healthy Librarian


I'm so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. That's what the breast cancer researchers tell us--often mammograms are no defense against the most aggressive breast cancers. The best we can do is just make effort to follow the few preventive lifestyle guidelines out there.

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