Thursday, November 22, 2012

A very 'helpful' study designed to confuse us all

I am sure that this morning's headlines (aside from Thanksgiving food, foot ball, parades, and giving thanks) will be full of the news that a new study has been released which says that 'Mammograms lead to unneeded treatment'. Gee thanks.

The study looked at test results from 1976 to 2008. The article makes two 'helpful' points:
  • mammograms do not help find late stage breast cancers any sooner so the death rate from them has not gone down by much
  • Between 70,000 and 80,000 women are treated annual for breast cancers that would never kill them
It also calls mammograms imperfect as they tend to over detect and find things that lead to anxiety and false positives. The current mentality is that if a cancer is found it is presumed to be deadly unless treated. So if cancer is found, we do not have a way of telling it from a deadly to a non-deadly so we treat all as if they were nasty. (Go find some patients with a tumor and ask them if we can wait to see if it kills you or goes away on its own? Not happening.)

In my mind, that is the real target. Finding ways to determine if a cancer is deadly or a cancerous tumor that is slow growing or will be reabsorbed by the body. That would be a whole new focus of research.


dylann andre said...

Thanks for the post.

Cancer Curmudgeon said...

I saw this article on Huffpost, here is what I wrote to them:
People will see “unnecessary breast cancer treatment” and not make it to the third paragraph which states “(m)ammograms are still worthwhile,” as well as the rest of the article essentially says science does not know how to determine which cancers will progress into a threat. So…why did the study not go ahead and figure out how to tell when a cancer needs to be treated or not? I mean is the current method, wait and see if it spreads around, wrecking women’s breast, so more mastectomies can be done, or if patients die? But as offensively pointed out in this post, screening is “only worthwhile if it finds cancers destined to cause death”. I mean, WTF? I’m still alive (hurray!), but I’d rather not have had the cancer at all, if you don’t mind!

I’m not exactly a big fan of mammography, being someone who got a false negative on her very first mammogram. I cannot believe that a false alarm is as bad as cancer…at least there is relief at the end of a false alarm. I live with the fear and stress of recurrence everyday...and this is after the stress and fear of having and being treated for cancer.

And I just love the last paragraph-yes, science needs to better define what treatment is really needed, or better yet, better DEFINE PREVENTION, where is the funding for that!

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