Mammograms May Not Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths
While the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women get a mammogram every two years if they’re between 50 to 74, a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, has found that mammography may lead to overdiagnosis by finding small or regressive tumors and result in treatment women may not need.
Researchers at Harvard University sought to investigate the link between rates of mammography for breast cancer detection and breast cancer incidence, tumor size, and death rates. They analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registries which included data from more than 16 million women ages 40 and older from 547 counties in the U.S. The researchers found that there was a 10 percent rise in breast cancer screening along with a 16 percent increase in breast cancer diagnosis. But the death rate from breast cancer did not decrease.
Other clinicians, however, pointed out that such studies can be misleading because they provide no information as to whether the women who received additional treatment were the same women who actually developed cancer.The key, they say, is better communication between doctors and patients regarding the most appropriate mammogram schedule for a woman.