Thursday, February 11, 2010

Also in the news today

Noticed this is tomorrow's edition of Science News just now (don't ask me how I have it a day early, science is awesome?)

Just another good review of the information and a little bit of the politics surrounding screening mammograms.

3 posts in 1 day? Raise your hand if you're sick of reading.

Mammograms do catch cancers. But the task force found high rates of false-positive mammograms and treatment for “overdiagnosed” cancer, questioning the benefits of routine mammography for 40-somethings. Your thoughts?

Women need to be clear about their chance of developing breast cancer, how much mammography reduces that chance and what are its associated harms. Imagine 10,000 women age 40. Over the next 10 years, without mammogram screening, about 35 will die of breast cancer. With screening, 30 will die — five fewer. But of 10,000 getting screened, 600 to 2,000 will have at least one false positive leading to a biopsy, and 10 to 50 will be overdiagnosed. They will be told they have cancer, and they will undergo surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, which can only hurt them since their cancer was never destined to cause symptoms or death.

Overdiagnosis is the most important harm of screening. People sometimes find it hard to believe that overdiagnosis is possible. These cancers look the same under the microscope but don’t behave like cancer. Because we can’t tell which cancers constitute an overdiagnosis, everybody who has cancer is treated.

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