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Mammograms don't save as many lives as women think

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  1. #1
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    Mammograms don't save as many lives as women think






    Mammograms don't save as many lives as women think
    By Julie Steenhuysen
    CHICAGO | Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:25am EDT

    (Reuters) - Many women who have survived breast cancer often say it was a mammogram that "saved their life," a powerful testimonial that can encourage other women to get regular breast cancer screening tests.

    But what are the chances that the test actually saved a woman's life? Not that great, according to a new analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday.

    "The numbers suggest that at most, 13 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer have been helped. That means the other 87 percent have not been helped," Dr. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth College, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

    "That is important when we keep hearing these stories from breast cancer survivors," he said.

    Welch said women who tell their stories about surviving breast cancer can be a powerful inducement for other women to get tested for breast cancer, and as mammogram technology has improved, the chances are even greater that doctors will find something suspicious.

    But early detection for some women may not be much of a benefit, especially if a cancer is slow growing, Welch and colleagues say. And many women may be diagnosed and treated for a cancer growing so slowly it might never have caused any symptoms or threatened their lives.

    The findings add new fodder to the simmering debate over the benefits of screening healthy people for cancer. Earlier this month, the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released a draft recommendation against a common blood test for prostate cancer, causing an uproar among cancer specialists who fear more men will die from prostate cancer.

    And in 2009, the same group recommended against routine breast cancer screening in women under 50, saying the decision should be an individual one. It also advised women 50 and older to get screening mammograms only every other year, rather than yearly, causing an outcry from breast cancer advocacy groups.

    But screening tests have both benefits and risks, says Welch, who views the current debate as positive for patients who are starting to think more about the risks of screening.

    An earlier study by Welch found that routine screening for prostate cancer has resulted in as many as 1 million American men being diagnosed with tumors who might otherwise have suffered no ill effects from them.

    In the latest study, Welch and colleagues looked to see how much mammography reduces deaths from breast cancer.

    They found that for 50-year-old women whose breast cancers were diagnosed by a mammogram, there was a 13 percent chance that the screening test saved her life.

    The question, then, becomes how to preserve the benefit of mammogram without exposing so many women to the hazards of overdiagnosis -- which include being treated for cancers that might not cause harm, Welch said.

    He said breast cancer screening technology has become better and better at spotting tiny cancers on the assumption that the earlier a cancer is detected, the better the chances of cancer survival.

    But Welch said as treatments for breast cancer get better, the need for very early diagnosis is less great.

    "For years we've been looking harder and harder for cancer. I think the time has come to ask the question, 'What if we looked a little less hard?'"

    Dr. Timothy Wilt of the Minneapolis Veterans Administration in Minneapolis, who wrote a commentary on the findings in the same journal, said the study gives doctors science-based information to share with patients, who are often influenced by anecdotes.

    "Because survivor stories are often so powerful, but inaccurate, they can result in people making healthcare decisions that are not science based and may be wrong," he said.

    SOURCE: bit.ly/uaItEz Archives of Internal Medicine, online October 24, 2011.





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  2. #2
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    actually it saves lives in young women, older women with breast cancer have a high liklihood of slow growing cancers so to lump them with young women with breastcancer you have a selection bias skewing the results to no change in mortality. The american cancer society vehemently protests the UPTS which is a committee of specialist who dictate guidelines, not a scientific body. The UPTS did not have a single radiologist, or urologist and lack of oncologists , the very fields that do the research and know the complete data . I will dig up the study that came out one month after the UPTS guidelines that showed mammograms in a womans forties do save lives ( when it is most aggressive). Mammograms in 80's, dont save lives.
    Last edited by bandaidwoman; 11-02-2011 at 10:25 AM.
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  3. #3
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    here it is

    Mammograms Can Save Lives of Women in Their 40s: Studies - US News and World Report
    and another from sweden http://www.drugs.com/news/mammograms...ays-26932.html


    and oh, even if it is true that mammos in young women don't save lives ( which is not the case), morbidity is significantly lowered if you can resect the tumor burden using smaller surgeries ( lumpectomies instead of mastectomies) and lower doses of radiation and chemotherapy.

    and then another from the radiology journal just published this year.,...

    A study just published in Radiology reports that after following 133,000 women, age 40-74, for twenty-nine years, the benefit of annual screening mammography confers a 30% reduction in deaths from breast cancer, a benefit that became more pronounced the longer the women were observed!

    Here are the details of the study:

    Women aged 40-74 were invited for annual mammogram screening and compared to women who were not. Approximately 133,000 women were involved in this study that screened women for seven years and then followed everybody for twenty-nine years. The results showed that women who were screened had a 30% reduction in breast cancer deaths and that this benefit persisted and got stronger year after year. Overall, annual screening mammogram in women age 40-74 prevented one cancer death for every 414-519 women screened.
    and here's another http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0127131118.htm

    They found that if women begin yearly mammograms at age 40, it reduces breast cancer deaths by 40 percent. When screening begins at 50 and occurs every other year, it reduces breast cancer deaths 23 percent.

    [quote[The difference between these two screening strategies comes down to 71 percent more lives saved with yearly screening beginning at 40.
    the upshot is, the UPTS overreacted to the false positives, they wanted to prevent the "trauma" of false positives in younger women, even at the expense of saving lives. I'll side with a scientific body like the American Cancer Society.
    Last edited by bandaidwoman; 11-02-2011 at 10:40 AM.
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