Breast cancer survivors often credit mammograms as the one screening tool responsible for having saved their lives. But a recent studies may have tarnished the somewhat-magical reputation that mammograms used to have. For every life that is saved, five women have to go through unnecessary surgery to remove tumors that wouldn’t have otherwise been life-jeopardizing.
Published in this week’s issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, the study investigated the correlation between tumor sizes, breast cancer death rates and screening rates among US communities.
In total, over 16 million women aged 40+ were tracked. Of the 16 million investigated women, 53,207 had been diagnosed with breast cancer fifteen years ago. The evolution of these women was examined for ten years and served as the basis for new recommendations.
Back in the 1970’s, Swedish studies suggested that mammogram screening could reduce breast cancer mortality by as much as 25 percent. Since then, the faith in mammograms has become somewhat unrelenting.
But according to the authors of the study published in JAMA, mammograms are actually responsible for overdiagnosing small tumors and do not influence death rates.
“Our analysis shows that, when directed toward the general U.S. population, the most prominent effect of screening mammography is overdiagnosis,” the study wrote.
This recent study is only one of many other similar ones all across Europe, North America and Australia to also prove that the rates of breast cancer haven’t decreased as previous literature had suggested. In recent years, controversy has been mounting over the fact that mammography screening may actually negatively impact patients.
Health professionals explain that diagnosing small tumors in their early stages may push women towards potentially harmful chemotherapy and radiotherapy, though such treatments aren’t always necessary.
In light of this recent information, study authors explain that further research is required to identify the overall risk for overdiagnosis and whether this risk is increased in certain ethnic groups or after a certain age.
Women should not be subjected to undue anxiety and unnecessary and harmful treatments, experts say. Health professionals should instead provide their patients with better tools to help patients make informed decisions as to their condition.
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