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article imageScreening mammography over-used, leads to unnecessary surgery

By Liz Seegert     Apr 3, 2012 in Health
Oslo - Researchers in Norway say that 15 to 25 percent - or about one in four - cases of breast cancer found through routine screening mammography is over diagnosed and would never have posed a health risk for the women had they never been found.
Results of a long term study published in the April 3 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, found that number of cases of invasive breast cancer in women aged 50 to 69 was the same in Norwegian counties that introduced screening programs and those that had not.
Scientists tracked nearly 40,000 women between 1996 and 2005. Up to one-quarter of the women had benign tumors or tumors that were growing slowly enough to never cause symptoms, spread, or be fatal. That worked out to 6 in 10 women being over diagnosed for every 2,500 screened. They concluded that many women are unnecessarily treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for a cancer that never would have evolved.
Without surgery, it is currently impossible to tell which tumors are benign and which pose a risk. Additional analysis showed a significant increase in the number of mastectomies among the screening cohort. This directly contradicts messages from government and non profit organizations that screening reduces mastectomy rates
These results support previous research, which also cast doubt on the efficacy of screening mammography. Several earlier European studies also reached similar conclusions of over diagnosis of cancer with mammography screening. Women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a different form of cancer, were excluded from this study.
More about Breast Cancer, Mammography, cancer diagnosis
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