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posted by Dopefish on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the breast-cancer-awareness dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"In the United States, about 37 million mammograms are performed annually at a cost of about $100 per mammogram and nearly three-quarters of women age 40 and over say they had a mammogram in the past year. Now the NYT reports that a study involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age finding that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not.

'It will make women uncomfortable, and they should be uncomfortable,' says screening expert Dr. Russell P. Harris who was not involved in the study. 'The decision to have a mammogram should not be a slam dunk.' An editorial accompanying the new study says that earlier studies that found mammograms helped women were done before the routine use of drugs like tamoxifen that sharply reduced the breast cancer death rate. In addition, many previous studies did not use the gold-standard methods of the clinical trial, randomly assigning women to be screened or not, noted the editorial's author, Dr. Mette Kalager. According to Kalager, with better treatments, like tamoxifen, it is less important to find cancers early.

Also, she says, women in the study were aware of breast cancer and its dangers, unlike women in earlier studies who were more likely to ignore lumps. 'As time goes by we do indeed need more efficient mechanisms to reconsider priorities and recommendations for mammography screening and other medical interventions,' concludes Kalager. 'This is not an easy task, because governments, research funders, scientists, and medical practitioners may have vested interests in continuing activities that are well established.'"

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by photong on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:21AM

    by photong (2219) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:21AM (#6332)

    I saw a talk (perhaps TED) about the ineffectiveness of early screening. The "scientists" claimed that women who had had their tumor detected early lived longer compared to those that had waited. Of course, they didn't account for the fact that catching it early meant that the tumor required more time to do its deed. You just become aware of the problem earlier, which some may argue is not beneficial (ignorance is bliss).

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by spiritfiend on Tuesday February 25 2014, @03:13AM

    by spiritfiend (964) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @03:13AM (#6358)

    There's also the cases where the detected tumor is actually benign, and the patient ends up with an unnecessary biopsy/surgery or treatment. There is an economic motive/bias for doctors to treat a patient. That being said, we are actually getting a lot better at determining what types of tumors patients have. Many research protocols involve genetic sequencing of these tumors to find out which treatments are effective against specific mutations. Expect things to get much better in this regard over the next 5 years or so.

  • (Score: 1) by GungnirSniper on Tuesday February 25 2014, @03:40AM

    by GungnirSniper (1671) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @03:40AM (#6370) Journal

    Tell that to Lurleen Wallace. [] It used to be common to shield the patient from unhappy news, to their detriment.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by mrbluze on Tuesday February 25 2014, @09:13AM

    by mrbluze (49) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @09:13AM (#6497) Journal

    Two problems with this news. 1. It is many weeks old already, and 2. The research iš confounded by old technology for mammography. Modern mammography has a better sensitivity and specificity. I would not advise women to avoid mammograms on the basis of this.

    Do it yourself, 'cause no one else will do it yourself.
  • (Score: 1) by jmoschner on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:55PM

    by jmoschner (3296) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:55PM (#6636)

    As it turns out, mammograms are also not very efective on women with dense breast tissue.