Sep 12 2012

The Big Squeeze: A Social and Political History of the Controversial Mammogram

A new study published last Thursday has found that the standard tool used to detect breast cancer – mammograms – may actually increase the risk of breast cancer in some young women who are already susceptible to the disease. The study examined 2000 women and found that those who were under the age of 30 and carried the BRCA breast cancer genes, increased their risk of developing breast cancer by up to 90% through the use of diagnostic mammograms and other chest X-rays. According to an ABC news report on the study, “If all carriers had one mammogram before age 30, the number developing breast cancer by age 40 would rise from nine to 14 out of every 100.” The recommendation by the American Cancer Society for women under 30 who have the breast cancer genes is to get yearly screening mammograms. In Europe, such women are advised to get screened through the use of MRIs instead.

Now a new book by breast radiologist Dr. Handel Reynolds, formerly at Indiana University, questions the wisdom of the widespread use of mammography. Published by Cornell University Press, The Big Squeeze: A Social and Political History of the Controversial Mammogram, delves into the history of the mammogram, its adoption as an effective tool in the fight against breast cancer, the mini-industries it has spawned in medical equipment, and what the benefits and risks of mammography are.

GUEST: Handel Reynolds, a breast radiologist currently in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, formerly Chief of Radiology at Indiana University, author of The Big Squeeze: A Social and Political History of the Controversial Mammogram, published by Cornell University Press

NOTE: Sonali erroneously cited PAP smears as a detection tool for ovarian cancer. PAP smears are used to detect cervical cancer.

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