Monday, September 9, 2013

First mammogram at what age?

This will open up a new debate I am sure. A new study is due out today from Harvard showing that younger women should get mammograms. The thought process being start the screening younger to build better habits.

"This new Harvard Medical study looked at more than 7,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Just over 600 died. Among those who died, 65 percent had never had a mammogram.

Researchers concluded earlier screening could have saved lives."

An additional note is that half of the women who died were under the age 50 as well.

In 2009, research suggested that women should not get mammograms until age 50. That caused a big hoo-hah if you recall. Now they are suggesting that younger women, no age range suggested, get mammograms, so brace yourself for another huge debate.

The news just covered this story as well. The upside to starting mammograms at a younger age is deaths can be prevented. But how many women would need to be screened to save a single life? And how many false positives would be detected causing unnecessary stress and additional medical costs in the meantime?

I also question the increased cost burden on the medical insurance system. We complain about medical costs increasing but then we expect more and more screening tests. It is a careful balance to achieve - who should get screenings should probably depend on a patient's medical history.

Personally, I have had annual mammograms since age 24 because I had a benign tumor, and a cancer history, so when my breast cancer was detected at 45, it was not my first mammogram. But if not for that benign tumor, I would probably not have had a mammogram until at least 40.

Every patient is different so the advice should be discuss this with your doctor for now.


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Anonymous said...

Anyone who scrutinizes the actual research will recognize that this isn't really a debate (if it ever was) just politics.

Mammography rests on unscientific doctrines instead of good science. Viewing this new study finding within the broader picture of mammogram research reveals its absence of scientific significance. Specifically, against the backgdrop that the most prominent pro-mammogram studies are severely flawed, that studies in support of mammography tend to exaggerate the benefits of screening, that just about any study in favor of mammography is produces by scientists bogged down with vested interests (such as Kopans, co-author of this new study), and that many credible studies found no discernible reduction in mortality of breast cancer (read the ebook "The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn't Want You To Know About" by Rolf Hefti).

And, surveys reported that if women had knowledge of the real facts about mammograms, many will stop getting them.

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