Do Mammograms Save Lives?
Does early breast cancer detection really save lives?
The most extensive study on mammograms to-date was released in February 2014. It analyzed nearly 90,000 women over the course of 25 years. The study found that Mammograms:
■ Do not reduce breast cancer death rates
■ Do increase over-diagnosis
○ 22% of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed
They Aren’t Helping
○ Based on a 25-year study of Canadian women aged 40-59
○ 44,925 women received breast exams and mammograms
○ 3,250 were diagnosed with breast cancer
○ 500 died from breast cancer
○ 44,910 women received breast exams only
○ 3,133 were diagnosed with breast cancer
○ 505 died from breast cancer
Mammograms Used to Work
American Cancer Society combined data from clinical trials of mammography show regular mammograms reduce death rates by as much as 20% in women 40+
The Canadian report points out that the randomized controlled trials of the 1960’s and 80s:
■ Preluded the drug tamoxifen, which sharply reduces risk of death
■ Preluded mass breast cancer awareness and women tended to ignore lumps
■ Did not use the gold-standard methods of today’s clinical trials
Calculating the Harm
● 74% of US women aged 40+ had a mammogram within the past 2 years
● 133,156 women were unnecessarily treated for breast cancer within the past 2 years.
Consequences of Misdiagnosis
○ Needless radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy
○ The average cost of treating early stages of breast cancer is $22,000
● Digital Mammograms cost hospitals
■ $120,000 – $220,000
○ +$15,000 – $20,000 for each Computer Aided Detection (CAD)
○ +$15,000 – $35,000 for each Physician Workstations (DWS)
○ Can total more than $275,000
How to Properly Self-Exam
According to nationalbreastcancer.org
1. In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2. In Front of the Mirror
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match — few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3. Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.