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breast cancer diagnosis
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ductal carcinoma
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Do Mammograms Save Lives?
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Do Mammograms Save Lives?

Women have been told for over twenty years that mammograms save lives. Most of them believe it and spend most of their adults lives scheduling mammograms, having mammograms, waiting for results and often having painful, nail-biting follow ups that usually do not reveal any cancer.

Do Mammograms Save Lives?

Breast cancer screening and treatment is a multi-billion dollar business. The mammogram machines are expensive and there is a strong profit motive to keeping them running as many hours a day as possible. And that requires screening candidates at younger and younger ages who believe that any cancer will not only be detected accurately and early but also cured and their lives spared. With the costs involved and women's lives at stake, is it true that mammograms save lives?

Dartmouth College Study: Do Mammograms Save Lives?

Researchers at Dartmouth College used the National Cancer Institute's analysis software to model the risk of breast cancer diagnosis and the death rate from these cancers. This is plenty of time to study the benefits of a woman who begins mammograms at the now recommended age of 40 as well as women aged 50, 60 and 70. They concluded a maximum benefit of 13% versus unscreened women and a benefit as low at 3%.

Their conclusion: mammograms do not save lives. They found that the subjects whose mammograms revealed breast cancer had not actually lived any longer. They were either diagnosed early or overdiagnosed with Stage 0 cancer that did not require treament.

False Readings Are Common

Moreover, false readings are common, leading to painful and maiming yet unnecessary treatment. Many more are merely ductal carcinoma in situ (D.C.I.S) known as Stage 0 breast cancer. D.C.I.S. was rarely detected before the introduction of mammograms. Now it accounts for 30-50% of all cancers found by mammograms.

Since D.C.I.S. is not invasive and may never progress to a life-threatening disease, do mammograms save lives by findind it? Researchers are questioning this and even discovering that even invasive cancers often spontaneously regress is left untreated. Treatment, however, is certain to have lasting and usually negative effects. Surgery is maiming, painful and subject to infections and other complications. Chemotherapy is whole-body poisoning. Radiation of the breast damages DNA and may cause future cancers.

In fact, all these mammograms are not without the risk of causing cancer themselves, particularly in younger women with more metabolically active tissue. Consider the risks of the mammograms, the small probability they will uncover an invasive cancer and the strong likelihood they will find a non-cancer that will lead to painful yet unnecessary treatment.

Do mammograms save lives? Probably a few but probably not yours or mine. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle will do much more to preventing cancer of all kinds.


Street Talk

Hi Jane, you are so right - I turned mine down and will continue to unless I find something worrying. I think salvation lies in the identification of cancer and breast cancer in particular, through genetic screening, not the old fashioned technology women are offered.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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