Monday, November 16, 2009

The Associated Press on the new recommendations re screening mammograms

It's interesting how the potential harms listed talk about unnecessary biopsies and other false alarms but in my mind it would be much more harmful to be diagnosed with breast cancer unnecessarily.  As stated earlier in this blog,  the best estimate we have state that for every one woman saved by a screening mammogram 10 women are diagnosed with a cancer they didn't need to know was there.   

What exactly do we mean by an "unnecessary diagnosis":
A cancer that would resolve on its own or a "pre-cancer" called DCIS that would resolve on its own or a cancer that was so slow growing that it would never grow large enough to affect the person's life or health or even become clinically apparent.  

So for every woman who has her life saved from screening mammography,  there are 10 women walking around who think of themselves as breast cancer survivors.  They spend the rest of their lives following strict follow up with oncologists and surgeons and getting yearly mammograms waiting for the cancer to "come back".   Most of them underwent surgery, radiation and sometimes chemo to treat their "early cancer".  

The magnitude of harm done over 30 years by screening mammograms will have to be admitted at some point in these disclosures and discussions.  

Interesting also how the title of the article is "new advice".  And throughout the article there's this impression that women between the ages of 40 and 50 are somehow not worth all those resources mammograms represent.  What they don't say is screening mammograms HARM HEALTHY WOMEN.  

The radiology organizations fought successfully to reverse a report by the national cancer institute in 1997 when the NCI's expert panel suggested that there was no proof mammograms between the age of 40 and 50 did more good than harm.  

We'll see if there's a similar backlash this time.  

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