October is breast cancer awareness month and what woman is not aware of breast cancer? The question is what is the scientific evidence that women should have mammograms for early breast cancer detection and when they should have them?
After researching the Internet, here are some findings:
- younger women are more likely to develop the killer cancers but screening works best for more slow-growing cancers
- women with a high risk of breast cancer and family history of the disease need to start screening early
- the United Kingdom says their current evidence suggests breast screening reduces the number of breast cancer deaths in the UK by about 1,300 a year
- mammograms can detect malignant tumors that cannot be felt, but treating those small tumors does not mean the woman will not die from cancer since it may have already spread to other body parts before detection
- women like actress Angelina Jolie have breasts removed when they are told they have genetic mutations that give them an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer because they are afraid tumors will not be detected by mammograms soon enough
- a 2012 study found that women were being diagnosed with breast cancers that would not kill them and as many as one-third routine mammogram-detected cancers may not be life-threatening
- a Harvard Medical School research team checked medical records through 2007 of 7,301 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 1999. 609 died of breast cancer–65 percent of those dead never had a mammogram. Their conclusion: earlier screening could have saved lives.
- the US Preventive Services Task Force, a health experts panel who advises the US government, in 2009 advised most women not start getting regular mammograms until age 50 and up through 74 since not enough lives are saved to justify the cost and worries from procedures for false-positive mammograms. They suggest once every two years
- the American Cancer Society tells women over 40 to get a mammogram once a year
- Overdiagnosis from mammography and MRIs “caused the death of millions of essentially healthy women over the last three decades” according to the book by Rolf Hefti, The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn’t Want You To Know About. He says one million women have been needlessly treated and emotionally distressed
- The Journal of the of the National Cancer Institute reported in February 2013 a study that showed the result of all American women aged 66 to 89 having yearly mammograms versus every other year would be 3.86 million more false-positives and 1.15 million more biopsy recommendations without added benefit
- Most articles about mammograms conclude women should consult their personal physicians for whether and how often they should have one. Most research is privately funded and definitive answers are still lacking.
The picture is of mammo-grahams designed for a celebration of one woman’s 20 years of being cancer free, not to make light of a horrid disease. Any woman who has had a mammogram, can identify with the squashed feeling. Get the recipe at Apron Strings.