Mammography More Likely to Lead to Excessive Treatment Than to Save Lives, Study Suggests

Mammography More Likely to Lead to Excessive Treatment Than to Save Lives, Study Suggests
Mammography screenings may be a less valuable breast cancer-detecting tool than thought. A recent study showed that breast cancer screenings are as likely — if not more so — to detect small tumors that will not grow as they are to identify at an early stage potentially dangerous ones. The study, “Breast-Cancer Tumor Size, Overdiagnosis, and Mammography Screening Effectiveness,” which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, also concluded that the improved survival of breast cancer patients is a result of better treatments, rather than earlier detection of deadly cancers. There is no doubt that mammography does detect potentially deadly cancers. The problem is that screening procedures also detect small tumors that are not destined to grow or spread. And, complicating matters, there is currently no effective way to tell if a tumor will go haywire, or if it will remain small and harmless. This uncertainty leads to a situation where women get treatment “just in case.” The lead researcher of the study, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, refers to mammography as “a value judgment." "This is a choice and it's really important that women understand both sides of the story, the benefits and harms," he said in a press release. The harm, in this case, most often comes in the form of unnecessary cancer treatment, and the risk of a host of severe side effects. Welch has long questioned the benefits of mammography screening, and has published other studies supporti
Subscribe or to access all post and page content.