Mammograms Save Few Lives, Treatment Harms Many

October 25, 2011 7:40 am 3 comments

As goes PSA testing for prostate cancer, so goes mammography for breast cancer. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that the great majority women who find breast cancer as a result of regular screening have not had their lives saved by the test. But, as Tara Parker-Pope reports in the New York Times Well column, many have had their lives diminished by unnecessary treatment. Two Dartmouth researchers, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch and Brittney A. Frankel, estimated a woman’s 10-year risk of developing breast cancer and her 20-year risk of death, factoring in the added value of early detection based on data from various mammography screening trials as well as the benefits of improvements in treatment. Among the 60 percent of women with breast cancer who detected the disease by screening, only about 3 percent to 13 percent of them were actually helped by the test. It’s true: the researchers believe that of the 138,000 women found to have breast cancer each year as a result of mammography screening, 120,000 to 134,000 are not helped by the test. That’s because of the truly deadly cancers that are caught by screening, only a small fraction are caught at the moment when treatment can help. Parker-Pope reports that clinical trial data suggests that 1 woman per 1,000 healthy women screened over 10 years falls into this category, although experts say that number is probably even smaller today because of advances in breast cancer treatments. Read more in the New York Times.

3 Comments

  • Not quite sure where the hell they came up with this. Having a Mammogram have saved my wife’s life on two occasions!!!

    • Trent R. Royer

      It’s called statistical data, and the information has been available for a decade now. Your wife may have been diagnosed with cancer after a screening, but it is highly, highly unlikely that her life was saved as a result of it. Women have been brainwashed into believing mammograms are the be all and end all, when in reality, they do more harm overall than good. Men didn’t protest when PSA screening was appropriately halted and it is important for women to educate themselves about what they are really getting themselves into when they agree to asymptomatic cancer screenings.

  • Let me guess another study by the government! So this is what universal helth care is all about?

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