Is Breast Cancer OverdiagnosedIs breast cancer overdiagnosed? A new study that appeared recently in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that this is the case.
Women have been told for many years that one of the most vital things they should do to protect their health is to have regular mammograms. However, some medical experts believe that in the last few years it has become more and more clear that mammograms are not all they are made out to be.
The study was done by an oncologist, Archie Bleyer, and H. Gilbert Welch, who is a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Welch is also the author of Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.
The big picture
The study done by Welch and Bleyer took a look at the big picture. This was the effect that mammography has had in the last three decades in the United States. The study determined that the introduction of screening has been connected with around 1.5 million additional women getting a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer. This was after the study corrected for the use of hormone replacement therapy and underlying trends.
The study concluded that this would have been wonderful if 1.5 million less women had received a diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer. If that had been true, it could have been said that the screenings provided by mammograms had advanced the time that a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and provided the chance of a reduction in mortality for 1.5 million women.
However, according to the study, this is not the case. The study found that about 0.1 million less women had gotten a diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer. According to the study, this discrepancy indicates that there was a great deal of overdiagnosis, that over a million women who were told that they had early stage cancer, had a cancer that was never going to make them ill. Many of these women underwent radiation, surgery or chemotherapy that they did not need. However, the study acknowledged that there was no way to know which women these were, but it indicated some significant harm.
Benefit of screening
According to the study, even more damaging is what the data suggest about the benefit of screening for breast cancer. The study concluded that if screening does not advance the time of diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer, it will not reduce mortality.
Some medical experts disagree with the conclusions reached in this new study. They believe that mammograms are worthwhile. Doctors stress that mammograms do catch some deadly breast cancers and save lives.
Dr. Julia A. Smith, director of breast cancer screening at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, said, This study is important because what it really highlights is that the biology of the cancer is what we need to understand. This is in order that it will be known as to which ones to treat and how. She added that doctors are already debating whether DCIS, a form of early tumor that is confined to a milk duct, should even be referred to as cancer.
If you believe you have been a victim of overdiagnosis, it may be in your best interests to talk to a personal injury attorney about your case.