Mammogram Study Getting Criticized - KMSP-TV

Mammogram Study Getting Criticized

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One of the largest mammography studies ever done is already getting criticized. 90,000 women in Canada were followed for years. Half were tested with mammograms, half were not. The death rate among breast cancer victims was the same in both groups, leading to headlines like "Vast Study Casts Doubts on Value of Mammography" ( New York Times).

But there are serious problems with the Canadian study, say doctors, including cancer specialist, Dr.Deanna Attai, in Burbank. "First, there is the issue of the equipment" she says. They used mammogram equipment that is outdated, not what we use today.

There's also the criticism that it's not a blinded study, as scientists would explain. The women who were supposed to be " randomly" tested, where examined by doctors before they decided what women would get mammograms. That's not random.

Then, there is the issue of death rates. They have dramatically decreased, among breast cancer patients, due to better treatment, including drugs like tamoxifen. So, to researchers looking at death rates as the final positive result in their studies, it's not as "important that women get diagnosed early, if they are going to survive anyway".

"If I were diagnosed" adds Dr. Attai, " I'd want to know as soon as possible, regardless of a death rate, it has to do with quality of life".

It comes down to free access to information. Do women want to know as soon as possible? Probably, even if it's the type of lump that may end up not being cancerous? Most likely. The option to do anything about it, is the issue. The concern is that insurance companies may take these studies as tools to reduce payments for what they might call"unnecessary" tests, like mammograms.

The study is in the British Medical Journal, if you want to read it. Dr Richard Wender, chief of cancer control at the American Cancer Society says they are reviewing all studies on mammography and will have better guidelines this year.

Their studies seem to indicate there is definitely a reduction of breast cancer deaths among women over 40, with early mammogram detection. You can go to their website for more information.

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