Mammography is routinely used to display screen wholesome ladies for breast most cancers, and its use has led to the widespread detection and therapy of tumors that will have by no means induced any signs, in response to a brand new examine printed in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The examine examined the results of mammography screens on breast-cancer incidence between 1976 and 2008 in ladies in the USA over 40 years of age. The researchers concluded that over a million ladies that have been identified with breast most cancers would have by no means developed any signs. In 2008, it’s estimated that over 70,000 ladies had such breast most cancers tumors identified, which accounts for 31% of all breast cancers identified in ladies 40 and older.
The examine raises questions on the worth of mammography screening. Overdiagnosis is a bigger downside than beforehand acknowledged. The identified ladies underwent therapies that concerned surgical procedure, radiation, hormones and chemotherapy for abnormalities that wouldn’t have induced any sickness.
This examine doesn’t deal with the state of affairs of ladies who’ve an inherited genetic predisposition in the direction of breast most cancers. These ladies should be screened actively with mammography.
With the introduction of a widespread screening program, diagnoses of early-stage breast most cancers have greater than doubled in the final three many years, with a rise of 122 circumstances for each 100,000 ladies. The authors of the examine argue that if the screening was working as supposed and stopping these cancers from progressing to a extra dangerous illness, then one would anticipate to see a roughly equal lower in late diagnoses.
The quantity of late-diagnosed cancers decreased solely by 8 circumstances per 100,000 ladies. This means that many of the early circumstances being detected by way of screening wouldn’t have induced symptomatic illness.
The examine does have its critics and the even the researchers aren’t towards screening, stating that “It does save lives. However a should be extra involved about the harms [of screening] turns into extra obvious from the outcomes of our examine.”