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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, 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.

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  • (Score: 1) by demonlapin on Tuesday February 25 2014, @04:04AM

    by demonlapin (925) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @04:04AM (#6379) Journal

    There is an economic motive/bias for doctors to treat a patient.

    It's not nearly as strong as the Shepard's Prayer [] motivation (and yes, I know that Shepard didn't actually put it this way): "Dear God, please don't let me fuck up."

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by song-of-the-pogo on Tuesday February 25 2014, @04:13AM

    by song-of-the-pogo (1315) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @04:13AM (#6381) Homepage Journal

    False positives and over treatment are a real problem.

    "Among 1000 US women aged 50 years who are screened annually for a decade, 0.3 to 3.2 will avoid a breast cancer death, 490 to 670 will have at least 1 false alarm, and 3 to 14 will be overdiagnosed and treated needlessly." []

    It appears "annual screening after age 40" recommendation is gradually being revised to reflect this issue, and I've seen, recently, recommendations more along the lines of "every couple of years after age 50".

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."