A familiar method that doctors use to check for possible breast cancer turns out to be another way of checking the effects of kidney disease as well. Researchers have studied women receiving mammograms, and discovered that some of these effects manifest themselves in breast arteries. They show up in other arteries as well, but unless other parts of the body are similarly scanned, they won’t be noticed.
What some mammograms show is deposits of calcium left in the arteries. This calcification is a typical result of kidney disease, and if it increases, it can lead to cardiovascular disease as well. The progress of the calcium deposits can be studied over the months and years, as doctors assess the possible risks to the heart and lungs.
A happy coincidence — if you can properly call it that — is that women reach the age of needing mammograms at about the same time they would be manifesting kidney disease if they’re going to get it. Many of those who show calcification in the arteries will probably already know they have kidney problems. Yet in some cases, what shows on the mammogram may be their first hint.
Mammograms may not be the best diagnostic tools when it comes to kidney disease itself. There are many other more reliable tests for that. But these procedures can certainly help to keep track of some of the effects of the disease.
And more than that, having a fairly early indication of the calcification in the arteries can serve as a warning of a growing risk of cardiovascular disease. With this extra tool, doctors can be alerted and perhaps take steps to try to prevent things from going that far. In yet another example of the interconnectedness of the body’s systems, using a tool designed to detect one ailment may help in detecting or even preventing others.
(For more information, read Proven Method of Cancer Detection Found Effective in Kidney Disease, January 25, 2010)