Ask the Doctor
December 18, 2012

Can a mammogram trigger breast cancer?

Dear Doc,

I was listening to a radio programme that noted that X-rays can trigger cancers and that seeing that a mammogram is an X-ray, it can cause breast cancer. The presenter’s view was that there are less harmful ways to examine the breast more efficiently without dangerous X-rays. Can you give me your opinion?{{more}}


Dear Lucinda,

The concept that there is a conspiracy to continue to use mammograms to detect breast cancer, but that it is causing more breast cancer is nothing more than an accusation. Many claim that the upsurge of breast cancer is due to the use of mammograms.

We have to be honest and note that many who are diagnosed with breast cancer had never done mammograms before and thus it is not right to blame mammograms. It is true that repeated high doses of X-rays over a short period of time could cause cancer development, but a once a year mammogram is within accepted limits.

There are safer ways than mammograms to examine the breasts for cancer and we do use them. Regular self breast examinations and ultrasounds are used but they will not find the early changes that mammograms can. We know that it is not safe to do a mammogram every month, so we recommend self-examination monthly, in conjunction with annual professional examination that will include a mammogram.

Today, annual mammograms are one of the most efficient and cost effective methods of breast examinations for possible cancers. There is not a conspiracy, because physicians and research scientists have their mammograms done, along with their family and friends.

The last thing that we need is non-proven information scaring people from having their mammograms done, thereby missing the very important window of time for early diagnosis and treatment.