To Mammogram or Not To Mammogram, That is the Question
Breast Cancer in the News
A new study indicates that breast cancer screening has not been a big factor in reducing breast cancer deaths. But there’s more to the story, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the new research concluded that in countries where breast cancer screening has been implemented, it has not had a direct part in reducing the number of deaths, and attributed the lower mortality rate to better treatment.
Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the ACS, released a statement that said, in part:
“First, the study does not measure how many women were actually screened.
“Second, just because two countries seem to share similar geography, doesnít mean that their breast cancer mortality trends are easily compared. For example, Sweden had about 10 percent greater breast cancer incidence than Norway during the study period. Higher incidence would clearly influence mortality rates over time. Also, while Sweden began introducing screening in 1986, not all counties introduced it in that year, and of course, not all women received a mammogram in 1986. It takes time to invite the population to screening, and full implementation didnít occur until 1992-1993.
“Third, and most important, many of the deaths attributable to breast cancer during the time period were diagnosed long before screening was introduced. In other words, there was not enough time to measure a population-wide effect in this study.
“Finally, we donít know how effectively mammography is functioning in the countries in these comparisons. The effectiveness of mammography on a population-wide basis will be influenced by how many women get screened and the accuracy of the screening.”
Dr. Brawley believes that a combination of better treatment and heightened awareness of breast symptoms have resulted in earlier treatment and a reduction in breast cancer deaths.
“The American Cancer Society continues to advise women age forty and older to get a high quality mammogram and clinical breast examination on a regular basis. [...] Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel, be alert for changes, and when there are changes, seek expert help. Mammography is not perfect. It will not detect all breast cancers, and not all women are at an age when mammography is recommended. Thatís why a heightened sense of awareness is an important complement to regular mammography screening.”
I am among those women who discovered their own breast lump. It happened to be during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and 13 months since my previous mammogram. What does all that mean? I don’t know. What I do know is that some breast cancers, like mine, are very fast growing and aggressive. Early treatment is crucial.
If I had been less self-aware, my upcoming mammogram may, indeed, have been how my cancer was found. How aware are you of your own breasts? Will you continue to get regular mammograms? Please take a moment to answer the poll below.
Sources: BMJ; American Cancer Society
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