Despite the update to the United States Preventative Task Force recommendations for women to not get screening mammography until age 50, organizations such as the American Cancer Society have thumbed their noses at the recommendation changes and are still promoting mammography at 40.
We continue to look at this from an emotional standpoint and have not been willing to step back and look at the actual data. The problem is Norway. This darn country was late implementing routine use of mammography. What this has done is created a perfect before and after picture. And it’s not as rosy as we’ve been led to believe.
We already know that a big problem is that a large chunk (maybe 1/3) of the “issues” found on mammography would spontaneously go away. Yes–believe it or not the body can and will rise up and get rid of cancers in the early stages.
In addition, many masses are actually found on breast self-exam which are then later confirmed by mammography, but the mammography did not actually “find” the mass.
Ok..so we know that there is a lot of psychological downsides to a false positive mammography that is later found to not be a tumor.
But this study sheds more light on this issue. In Norway, when mammography was introduced, breast surgery rates went up a massive 70%! This is great for the surgeons, but not so much for the poor patients. Keep in mind that this is NOT accompanied for a comparable lowered risk of breast cancer deaths. So, more surgeries but not necessarily better outcomes.
The bottom line is that this will remain a controversial and highly emotional topic. I’m only trying to educate that mammography has serious drawbacks as a means of cancer PREVENTION.
It is not, and will never be, a preventative measure for breast cancer. Healthy lifestyle changes are the only means of prevention. Mammography is merely finding problems early, but does, in no way, shape or form, prevent them. Until society stops teaching that mammography = prevention, we’re going to have problems.