Today breast cancer is the second highest reason for death in ladies, after lung cancer. As a result, yearly breast mammograms became common for girls over forty, or anyone at heavy risk of getting this perilous, disfiguring condition.
Now that plans like this are in place, experts had predicted that the amount of cases of advanced breast cancer would reduce, but that’s just not happening.
Rather the incidence of breast cancer seems to have gone up since universal screening became part of our annual examinations. Why?
Ladies know that early identification of breast cancer can reduce deaths, but that doesn’t make attending that annual mammogram any less stressful or uncomfortable.
We live with the tests because we’ve been told we need to find lumps when they’re too little to feel or show symptoms, before they’ve an opportunity to grow and cause trouble.
But do all cancers lead to problems?
Late last year a large Norwegian research of mammography screening for breast cancer found that some intrusive cancers may spontaneously regress given time, leaving no obvious sign that they were ever present in a lady’s body.
Makes you wonder, now that we will screen for it, if this type of cancer isn’t over diagnosed or over handled.
This latest BMJ report citing an over-diagnosis rate for intrusive breast cancer of 35% could actually have you re-considering that yearly mammogram.
Besides this type of cancer, over-diagnosis has additionally been discussed for carcinoma of the prostate as well as neuroblastoma, melanoma, thyroid cancer and lung cancer.
The most recent work on over-diagnosis came from researchers out of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen.
The team analyzed the results of studies that spanned a 14-year period. 7 years before public mammography screenings were available, and 7 years after government administered mammography-screening programs were running in five different countries ( Great Britain, Canada, New South Wales, Australia, Manitoba, Sweden and areas in Norway )
They discovered an over-diagnosis rate of 52% for all cancers, 35% for aggressive breast cancer.
The info indicates a jump in breast cancer cases shortly after the screening programs were put in place.
What this work endorses, as did the Norwegian study before it, that perhaps not all cancers need to be treated, some might grow too slowly to affect a patient and others may resolve on their own.
It is important to grasp that no doctor or current screening technique can notice the difference between a cancer that is’s dangerous and one that won’t be.
In a BMJ editorial that is’s published together with the study, professor of medication Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research recognizes the problem of over-diagnosis, understanding the trauma and terror a woman lives with after being given such news by her doctor.
Surgery and chemo bring their own set of difficulties that are physically demanding and emotionally draining, and a terrible trial for patients and families. Particularly those whose cancers may not have required treatment.
While this latest research is still not an reason, or advice, to put off your yearly mammogram, it does raise some rather bothering questions.
Until we all know more, each woman has to decide for herself whether to continue with yearly breast mammograms, but it is clear that screening has let us detect earlier cancers and start appropriate treatment earlier and save many more lives.