October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making this a great time to talk about the proven link between breast cancer and scoliosis. It’s true. People with scoliosis are at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Why? The short answer is the increased exposure to radiation from constant X-rays. But let’s start this discussion by looking at the facts.
One of the leading organizations on treating scoliosis, The Schroth Method, has long recognized the correlation between breast cancer and scoliosis. Their findings are detailed in the following passage from the book, Schroth Therapy:
“Patients who undergo treatment using a brace will sometimes be subject to more than twenty X-ray examinations over a period of three years (Rao and Gregg 1984, Doody et al. 2000, Ronckers et al. 2010, Yoshinaga 2012). Accordingly, the exposure to X-rays is so high, particularly patients with spinal distortions, that for women who are affected, the chance of breast cancer has been shown to be above average (Nash et al. 1979), with the risk of leukemia also having been shown to be higher than average (Rao and Gregg 1984). In a further study on the same issue, the incidence of breast cancer was seen to be twice as high for patients with scoliosis as it was for the control group (Hoffmann et al. 1989).”
The good news is that there are alternatives to a traditional X-ray. The Formetric System is the most widely used non-X-ray machine that scans the body for scoliosis. It can give your doctor the precise information in which to calculate your Cobb Angle, showing the three-dimensional aspects of how your scoliosis is affecting your entire body. This scan is radiation free!
X-rays aren’t the only culprit. Mammograms and the radiation associated with them have also been proven to increase one’s risk for breast cancer. Dr. David Brownstein, a doctor I’ve followed and learned a lot from over the past few years, has some interesting things to say about the topic of breast cancer. In a recent blog post he writes, “it is estimated that each mammogram increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by one percent. After 10 years of mammograms, a woman’s risk may increase by 10 percent.”
But there’s more good news: there are alternatives to mammograms as well. Breast thermography or thermal imaging can detect areas in the body with increased blood flow, and tumors characteristically have increased blood flow. Therefore, thermography will be able to detect if there is a questionable area of breast tissue. The procedure is simple as thermography is done by taking pictures of the torso with a specialized camera. And the best news is, no radiation!
Lucky for me, I’ve found a reputable thermographer in my area. My only regret is that I didn’t find him sooner. If I had had thermography images taken of my body years ago, it would have picked up a massive cyst that sat inside my pelvis for years and wreaked havoc on my body (more on that story here)!
I have no idea who has the Formetric System in my area and don’t know anyone who’s had it done, although I’ve read about it a great deal. I haven’t had a single X-ray for my scoliosis in many years and don’t plan on having one any time soon. Nor do I have any intention of getting a back brace or having surgery, so there’s no real need for me to get spinal X-rays. I know all I need to know by measuring my back using a scoliometer. If you need a refresher on the research behind a scoliometer and want to see videos on how to use it, check out these links:
- How to Use a Scoliometer
- Tracking Chart Info
- Scoliometer Introduction Video
- Scoliometer Demonstration Video
In summary, radiation from X-rays and mammograms can be harmful to your body and have shown an increased risk of breast cancer, regardless of whether you have scoliosis. If you do have scoliosis, chances are you’ve had many, many X-rays over your lifetime and you need to be very aware of the risks associated with additional X-rays and mammograms. There are other alternatives available to you now, and you should educate yourself further before exposing your body to any additional radiation, and potentially, an increased risk of breast cancer.
You are your own best advocate!
My Daughter is 14 and was just diagnosed. She has had one X-ray but has to get more spine X-rays. She is wearing a brace now. What do you recommend? Someone mentioned EOs imaging. We want to be safe. Also our Childrens hospital said they are no longer covering the areas such as the breasts during X-ray?
Erin Myers says
If she were my daughter, I’d search to find a low dose or no dose X-ray machine. I think there’s only one in my town of Nashville, and you have to ask to have it. I’d be your daughter’s advocate and start researching X-ray technology in your town. I’d also ask to have the breasts covered if possible, but I don’t know if it’s possible with scoliosis X-rays since she’s standing up. Start calling around and researching in your town. You’re blessing your daughter by being proactive and fighting for her help.
I was wondering if having scoliosis can cause skewed breast thermography results? What i mean is increased temperatures on one breast compared to the other due to the scoliosis.
Erin Myers says
There’s no reason that ribcage rotation from scoli would skew breast thermography results. Rotation and lateral bending of the spine wouldn’t affect temperature of tissue of breast tissue.