Joan Lunden recently announced on Good Morning America and her blog that she has been diagnosed with “the more aggressive kind” of breast cancer. There are some interesting details around Joan’s announcement that bring attention to the medical status quo, specifically cancer in this instance. In mainstream America, mammography is considered the golden standard when it comes to detecting breast cancer. Women are constantly inundated with reminders to be diligent about getting their mammograms once a year. MRI, ultrasound and thermography typically receive less attention, if any. Many doctors and practitioners are not even familiar with these alternatives and therefore dismiss their efficacy.
Many times we falsely assume that because a particular method is the popular, recommended or mainstream way, that it is the only way or the only effective way.
Joan openly shares in her blog a surprising fact about her breast cancer discovery:
Two weeks ago I went for my annual mammogram as I do every year religiously, and thankfully it was all clear. That is always the moment where I feel I can breathe again. However for women who have dense fibrous breast tissue, as I do, often our doctors will recommend an ultrasound as well. My ultrasound that day revealed a tumor in my right breast.
Here is Joan Lunden ‘religiously’ getting her annual mammograms as directed, but it wasn't the mammogram that detected her breast cancer — it was the ultrasound. This is something to note. Mammograms are not necessarily the answer for most women. Consider that “[Mammography] screening led to 30 percent over-diagnosis and over-treatment, or an absolute risk increase of 0.5 percent. This means that for every 2000 women screened for 10 years, one will have her life prolonged, and 10 healthy women who would not have been diagnosed if they had not been screened, will be treated unnecessarily” (Mercola, 2012).
Moreover, in one of the largest and longest medical studies on mammography published in the British Medical Journal, it was concluded that mammograms have no impact on breast cancer mortality. In fact, the Swiss Medical Board is revising their mammography programs (no new systemic mammogram programs are to be introduced; women must be informed about both the upside and downside of a mammogram) after a comprehensive assessment that found no evidence mammograms are safe or that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Other methods of breast cancer screening exist, and for many women may be a more suitable alternative depending on a variety of personal factors. For example, thermography “can detect physiologic changes associated with a cancer while it is still at a cellular level—before it becomes visible on a mammogram. Thermography has other unique abilities as well. It can indicate estrogen dominance, an imbalance in estrogen levels associated with higher breast cancer risk. It can detect lymphatic congestion, also a precursor to disease” (Hudson).
All methods have advantages and disadvantages, and these need to be considered in conjunction with our personal medical histories as we come to an informed decision with our medical care providers. While I have never had a mammogram and can’t presently imagine a circumstance where I would choose to have one, that decision is based on my body, my medical history, my lifestyle, my risk tolerance, my belief system and many other factors. Our bodies are all different, and so we have to make the best choice for ourselves. Knowing our options gives us the freedom to make that choice. When we are informed, we are less likely to react from fear which tends to narrow our perspective and therefore our choices. We are also less likely to feel intimidated by someone who has MD next to their name or the fear element that permeates the cancer paradigm in Western Medicine.
Joan Lunden also shares with us in her interview that she has begun chemo and plans to have radiation and surgery. Again, same concept as mammography, while chemo and radiation are the way to address cancer in mainstream Western Medicine, we need to be aware that there are MANY successful alternatives for healing cancer. Many of which are not so destructive to the human body. This way we can CHOOSE the healthiest method for our body, mind and spirit. As Joan points out, we go into ‘warrior mode’ with a diagnosis like this learning everything we can, and for her, chemo/radiation was the choice she made based on a number of personal considerations.
For me, warrior mode means being diligent about getting informed without being influenced by fear. Given the current state of our medical system including limited one on one time frames with our doctors and insurance/financial considerations among others, it is not in our best interest to defer to the doctor entirely without due diligence. We can no longer assume “the doctor knows best” or safely “just do what the doctor says.” There are too many factors at play now, and we must take responsibility in order to prolong and enhance our health, longevity and quality of life.