This from W. C. Douglass, M.D.:

With the barrage of media hype surrounding breast cancer (and you’re hearing more lately because this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month), it’s no wonder women often cite it as their primary health concern.

All this worry (and “awareness”) has made breast cancer screening an enormous business. Women have been terrorized into having repeated mammograms, manual breast examinations, light exams, and anything else that can be dreamed up to get an early diagnosis.

The awareness women need is that early detection techniques aren’t all that effective. Eric Chamot, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, commented recently that “it seems clear that the widespread use of a marketing approach to telling women about mammography screening has led to an exaggerated idea of the method’s effectiveness.”

More than half of the women surveyed by Dr. Chamot and his team of researchers said they believed screening reduces the risk of breast cancer death by between 50 and 75 percent, a grossly distorted idea, promoted by doctors. Research has shown that mammograms do not offer any advantage over physical breast exams in reducing cancer mortality.

There is an alternative method of detecting the early stages of cancer, but the Anti-Malignan Antibody Screen (AMAS) just hasn’t been heavily promoted.

Your doctor simply takes a blood sample and screens it for Anti-Malignan Antibody (AMA), a naturally occurring antibody whose levels become elevated in the presence of cancer cells. These serum levels tend to rise early in the course of the disease, which means that you can detect the presence of cancer as much as seveF SOmonths, even a year, before other clinical tests find it.

Results of the AMAS test alone cannot be used to diagnose the disease. However, it is a remarkable breakthrough for the detection of cancerous cells, which, taken in conjunction with other factors, may help physicians arrive at a more concrete-and accurate-diagnosis.

If you suspect that you have cancer or if you have other risk factors, like family history of the disease, ask your doctor to run an AMAS test. If he refuses, find a doctor who will perform the test. You (or your doctor) can find out everything you need to know about the AMAS test by contacting he Boston firm Oncolab Inc. at 36 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02215; tel. (617)536-0850.