Friday, October 9, 2015

Early detection and saving lives

Laurie over at Not Just About Cancer blogged about the myth of early detection and linked to a very good article on the same subject in Psychology Today. Early detection is supposed to be a good thing meaning they caught your disease (whatever it maybe) before it got really nasty.

Amy Robach and others say 'my mammogram saved my life'. But is this really true? I am not saying that they are lying but the question is did their mammogram really save their life? I have friends who believe the same thing. They attribute their still being alive because of their 'life saving mammogram'.

Let's take a look at this. First of all, as the Psychology Today article points out, if we were detecting more cancers earlier wouldn't the numbers for late detection or deaths be decreasing? They aren't.

"But this dramatic increase in "early-stage" diagnoses has not been followed with a decline in advanced breast cancers, as would be expected if early detection was the key to stopping progression."

Next, breast cancer is not a linear disease. There are many types which are more or less treatable and some it doesn't matter when they are caught, they are still going to kill you. And others are never going to be fatal and will resolve themselves. We just aren't very good about telling them apart. 

"For all we do not know about breast cancer (i.e., what exactly causes it, how to prevent it, how to keep it from recurring, how to keep people from dying from it if it spreads), there are things we do know. Breast cancer is complex. It stems from multiple causes, some of which include radiation, carcinogenic chemicals, and cancer promoters such as endocrine disrupting compounds(link is external). There are at least ten subtypes of breast cancer that behave and respond to treatments differently. One-size-fits-all treatment does not work. Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer; nor do they guarantee that the cancer found on a mammogram (if it is found on a mammogram) is indolent, lethal, or somewhere in between. Acknowledging these complexities would not only help to shift the breast cancer paradigm, it would serve those who want to be well informed."

So if you feel your mammogram saved your life, you may or may not be right.

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