Holy Hormones Journal: 50 years analysis on a procedure the all women have endured over their life time and know the ‘evidence’ is showing that the harms from mammography are underestimated? Read the numbers below… “The authors report that the best estimate of the reduction in mortality from breast cancer due to annual screening for women overall is about 19 percent.”
19%? And those numbers fluctuate for different age groups? When mammograms were first introduced into the market, women were told that this was the procedure that would save their lives. I found this interesting article entitled: Marketing Mammograms to the Masses. Too bad there was not a date.
What I gleaned from this article is that women were none too keen to have their breasts squeezed between two pieces of cold metal.. and that this type of screening was a hard sell. Translation: Women’s intuition was speaking loud and clear. However, just like everything else – mammography made it into mainstream medicine. Doctors prescribed them and we trotted off to be blasted with radiation – once a year. And then we got breast cancer anyway.
And now we find out “that roughly 36 of the 190 women who received annual mammography for 10 years and were diagnosed with breast cancer would receive unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.”
I just posted another article/study about mammograms vs. self-exams and deaths from breast cancer – and the difference was nominal. The authors of this study stated: “The data suggest that the value of mammography screening should be reassessed.”
One of the most extensive studies on mammograms to date finds that the procedure isn’t any more effective in preventing breast cancer deaths than a traditional physical breast exam. In fact, according to the researchers from the University of Toronto, mammograms actually lead to significant over-diagnosis of the disease — which can result in unnecessary, costly treatments for cancers that may have receded without an intrusive intervention.
So what is the point? Have women been foiled again? Our tits squeezed and zapped with radiation, biopsied and cut off without a measurable outcome?
The mammography dilemma: 50 years of analysis
A comprehensive review of 50 year’s worth of international studies assessing the benefits and harms of mammography screening suggests that the benefits of the screening are often overestimated, while harms are underestimated. And, since the relative benefits and harms of screening are related to a complex array of clinical factors and personal preferences, physicians and patients need more guidance on how best to individualize their approach to breast cancer screening.
The results of the review by researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are published today in JAMA.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 40,000 U.S. women will die of breast cancer this year. In 2009, based on evidence that the benefit-risk ratio for mammography screening is higher among women over 50 and with less frequent screening, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) reversed its previous recommendation of mammography every one to two years beginning at age 40, and recommended routine screening every two years starting at age 50, the researchers noted. The recommendations remain controversial among the general public and the medical community. Recent evidence suggests that use of mammography in the U.S. has not changed following the updated recommendations.
“What I tell my patients is that the mammogram is not a perfect test,” said Nancy Keating, co-author of the report, associate professor of Health Care Policy at HMS and associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s. “Some cancers will be missed, some people will die of breast cancer regardless of whether they have a mammogram, and a small number of people that might have died of breast cancer without screening will have their lives saved.”