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Mammograms Identify Small Breast Cancers But do They Save Lives?

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Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available.

No matter how many different ways I questioned cancer screening, Mary (not her real name) continued to fall back on the often made statement that “mammograms save lives!” Mary is an intelligent, well-educated close friend and former co-worker who had a mammogram that revealed a tumor in her breast. She then made the decision to have a double mastectomy. Like many women, Mary was convinced that a mammogram and subsequent double mastectomy had saved her life.

Illustration of stage I breast cancer

Maybe the mammogram saved Mary’s life and maybe it didn’t. We will never know. The trouble with cancer studies is that they deal with anonymous, faceless groups.  Mary is an actual person. A real, living breathing person. If a doctor tells you that you have cancer growing inside you, most people will take dramatic steps to remove the cancer completely including surgery, toxic chemotherapy and radiation.

I am a survivor of an “incurable” cancer and cancer coach. Personal experience and research has taught me that cancer management is about both conventional and evidence-based non-conventional therapies.

If you would like to look beyond conventional breast cancer thinking please scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:


Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study: randomised screening trial

Conclusion Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available. Overall, 22% (106/484) of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed, representing one over-diagnosed breast cancer for every 424 women who received mammography screening in the trial.”

“Should I be Tested for Cancer?” Maybe Not and Here’s Why

Cancer Screening is Losing Luster, Says Critic

“After 50 years of being enthusiastically promoted and used, cancer screening has entered an era that is characterized by “skepticism,” according to a commentary published online August 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine…

 “For years, cancer screening has been oversold,” he said, echoing a comment made by Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, in 2009, which caused a firestorm of controversy at that time…This declaration has become less controversial since a variety of commentators have described screening as being the subject of promotion instead of education.

Unlikely to Benefit, Older Americans Still Get Cancer Screening

“A substantial proportion of older people in the United States continue to undergo cancer screening, even though they are unlikely to benefit from it. A large population-based study that used data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that more than half of all people 65 years and older who had a life expectancy of less than 9 years had received prostate, breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer screening…

“These results raise concerns about overscreening in these individuals, which not only increases healthcare expenditure but can lead to patient net harm,” the researchers write…People with a shorter life expectancy have less time to develop clinically significant cancers after screening tests and are more likely to die from other causes..”

 

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