Screening for breast cancer: Feared a risk factor
Originally Published In
International Journal of Childbirth Education
It has been feared that diagnostic screening might increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Low-energy X-rays used in mammography are four to six times more damaging to cells than higher energy X-rays such as gamma rays. Positron emission mammography (PEM) captures sharp, detailed pictures that display size, location, and shape of breast tumors making surgical or other treatment interventions more precise. Breast-specific gamma imaging (BCGI) is a new technology that uses a gamma camera to view an injected tracer that emits gamma radiation. The biggest factor linking PEM and BCGI tests to cancer is the intravenous injection of the radioactive isotopes which in turn exposes all organs to radiation increasing cancer risk. When living tissue is exposed to radiation of any type, the structure, function, and reproduction of cells are altered. The risk increases for women who are younger, who have dense breast tissue, or who have higher risk of cancer. Mammography still appears to be the best screening for healthy women. Women should still be screened for breast cancer, using the technique that contributes the least to their personal breast cancer risk. It is still safer to have a mammogram.