Friday, October 14, 2016

More than half of routine mammograms result in unneeded treatment

According to a story by Melissa Healy in the Los Angeles Times, more than half of breast cancers detected in the US are cases of  mistaken identity--resulting in needless anxiety, distasteful treatment, and expense.

Mammograms as a life-saving tool, say the researchers (New England J of Medicine), have been "significantly overstated," according to this article.

These findings also indicate that breast cancer is way more complex than initially believed.

In the early 1970s, experts believed that a small lump would almost certainly grow and spread.

But now--researchers believe a tumor's genetics as the interaction of tumor and host are better predictors of progression than size.

In short, "when in doubt cut it out" is resulting in collateral damage.

In 2016, doctors in the US will diagnose 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer, along with 61,000 cases of non-invasive (in the ducts).

The National Cancer Institute figures that the majority detected by the routine screen mammograms will never become deadly. About 20% maybe would have progressed.

So how to tell the difference? Waiting and seeing "is a choice," as one doctor put it.

What accounts for the decreased mortality from b/c? Better therapy when a cancer does progress, the doctors say, not early detection.

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