There have been reports and articles that discuss the practice of mammography. It is alleged that there has been overscreening for breast cancer and conflicts of interests on major boards. Five radiologists have served as presidents of the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS has a great tendency to promote the interests of the manufacturers of mammogram devices and films, which included Siemens, Piker, General Electric, DuPont and Eastman Kodak.
Dr. Samuel S. Epstein and Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D report that the mammography industry conducts research for the ACS and its grantees, serves on advisory boards, and makes large donations to it. They do all sorts of promotional things for ACS. In short, ACS is very strongly linked with the mammography industry, while attacking and ignoring breast self examination, procedures that don’t produce profits for the cancer industry.
While ACS promotes mammography as a valuable diagnostic procedure that is the best way to fight breast cancer, the truth is that mammography actually exposes to high doses of radiation, and may be a source of cancer. Drs. Epstein and Bertell report that if a woman follows the current mammography recommendations, over a 10 year period she would receive a total of 5 rads, which is about the same level of radiation exposure that Japanese women one mile from the center of the atom bomb drops on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
We must remember that the mammography screening industry is a multibillion dollar business. It attracts the attention of legislators and women’s product corporations so that they can appear to be socially conscious while they avoid discussing truly effective ways to minimize the risks of breast cancer. Screening mammography should probably be phased out in favor of annual clinical breast examinations by trained nurses. This would be a cheaper, more effective, more safe alternative to mammography screening, according to Epstein and Bertell.
This is just another example of how financial considerations are more important to the leaders of institutions than the realities. If there is a choice between maximizing profits and status, and maximizing the health of patients, the preference is always to maximize the profits for corporate interests. This is a common pattern that I have observed in my study of the medical industry. They then work to adjust the data to support the profitable action. This could be termed “financial expediency.”