Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Non-Answer

A new study came out on Monday regarding additional breast screening for women with dense breasts. The problem is that mammograms are not very good at detecting cancer's in dense tissue. But just adding an ultrasound is not the answer.

""What's not clear is what a woman who's told her breasts are dense should do next, if anything. Some of the laws suggest extra screening may be in order.

Not so fast, a team of scientists reported Monday. They modeled what would happen if women with dense breasts routinely received an ultrasound exam after every mammogram, and calculated such a policy would cost a lot, in extra tests and false alarms, for a small benefit.

For every 10,000 women who got supplemental screening between the ages of 50 and 74, three to four breast cancer deaths would be prevented - but 3,500 cancer-free women would undergo needless biopsies, the study concluded."

Obviously just because you may have dense breasts, you could be at higher risk for breast cancer but it doesn't mean you will get breast cancer. Your real risk of getting breast cancer depends on several other issues including family members' medical history, etc.

"Monday's study "reaffirms that we don't know exactly what the right thing to do is when a woman has dense breasts," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.
Simply finding more tumors won't necessarily save lives, cautioned Brawley, who worries that "we're legislating something that we don't totally understand."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn't recommend routine additional testing in women who have no symptoms or other risk factors.

UCSF's Kerlikowske said the real issue in deciding whether any woman needs extra screening - from an ultrasound to a more expensive MRI - is her overall risk of breast cancer."

The things that are clear to me are that first of all more research is clearly needed AND an additional screening of some sort is needed. We aren't there yet. This study was progress but it gave us a non-answer.

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