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Mammogram Overdiagnosis More Likely Than Dangerous Tumor, Study Finds

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A new study says overdiagnosis of a mammogram result is four times more likely than a dangerous tumor. (Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 05:48 PM

Women who had regular mammograms were more than four times more likely to have breast cancer that was overdiagnosed than to have detection of a small tumor that would later become large and need treatment, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Although the study did find that mammograms detected 162 more cases of cancer per 100,000 women than the baseline results from the 1970s, only 30 of these tumors were expected to progress to become large and need treatment. The other 132 were not expected to lead to clinical symptoms, which means they were overdiagnosed.

It may seem like the study showed mammograms were beneficial for detecting cancer at earlier stages, but researchers actually concluded the mammograms did not, in fact, reduce the risk of cancer or its mortality rates. Fewer large tumors were found only in proportion to the much larger number of smaller tumors found, but the majority of those small tumors were not indicative of progressive breast cancer.

“This new article will not change our guidelines,” American Cancer Society Chief Cancer Control Officer Dr. Richard Wender told Reuters. He characterized the research as showing a trend, which he said was “the weakest form of evidence.”

Lead study author Dr. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical research told Reuters, “Everyone should understand that there are tradeoffs in screening. It’s not a simple it-can-only-help-you kind of story. If you have a new breast lump you should have a mammogram. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. Otherwise, “women should understand it’s a choice.”

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Women who had regular mammograms were more than four times more likely to have breast cancer that was overdiagnosed than to have detection of a small tumor that would later become large and need treatment, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
mammogram, overdiagnosis, study
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2016-48-13
Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 05:48 PM
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