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Breast Cancer Article found Irresponsible

”mammography causes more harm than good…We have been sold a bill of goods about the idea that early detection saves lives," Maryann Napoli, associate director of the Center for Medical Consumers reacting to a study that suggests that mammography screening has no effect on mortality rates for breast cancer patients" (Washington Post, 10/19/2001).

Breast cancer is among the most common cancers diagnosed in women and the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. During 2001, an estimated 192,200 new cases will be diagnosed and an estimated 40,200 women are expected to die from breast cancer.

Because mortality from breast cancer is strongly associated with staging of the cancer, women whose cancer is detected at earlier stages have better outcomes. For early stage breast cancer, there are more treatment options, treatment can be less disfiguring and less toxic, and survival is improved. The longer breast cancer remains undetected and untreated, the greater the chance it will metastasize or spread to other areas of the body. The five-year survival rate for women with cancer that has not spread beyond its point of origin, is 97%. Once the cancer has metastasized, survival rates drastically drop to 20%.

Screening mammography has been shown to save lives by detecting breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. Research indicates that use of regular screening mammography can reduce breast cancer mortality by 20% to 40% for women over the age of 50.

Mammograms, x-ray pictures of the breast, remain the single most effective method we have to detect breast cancer early. Mammography can detect changes in the breast that may be cancer, long before physical symptoms can be detected. Mammography has an estimated ability to detect abnormalities between 76% and 94% of the time.

Respected cancer advocacy and provider groups, including the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Radiology (ACR), American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), have developed guidelines concerning the use of mammography. While the recommendations of these groups may vary, all have made mammography the centerpiece of a breast cancer screening strategy along with self exams and clinical breast exams performed by a doctor.

Cancer advocates have worked hard to educate women about the importance of breast cancer screening and to improve women’s access to mammograms. Despite these efforts, many women still do not take advantage of this potentially life saving technology and other women fail to get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals. According to the Delmarva Foundation, if all women over 40 and older took advantage of regular mammography in conjunction with clinical breast exams, breast cancer death rates would drop up to 30%.

Casting doubt on the value of mammography screening would only fuel these women’s fears and keep them away. Given the benefits of mammography screening, any statements that might serve to discourage women from getting a mammogram are extremely irresponsible.
For an informative article on the benefits for young women of mammograms, click here.


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