Routine mammography screening can reduce breast cancer mortality rates by nearly 30 percent, according to.
In a new study, which was published online Tuesday in the journal BMJ, researchers tracked Norwegian women aged 50 to 79 between 1986 and 2009, just as a national screening program was getting underway.
Scientists used a model to estimate breast cancer death rates in women invited to get a mammogram as part of the government-funded program and in those who weren’t included yet. About 76 percent of women offered a mammogram actually got it.
Researchers reportedly estimated that approximately one breast cancer death could be prevented for every 368 women screened with mammography, and that the routine test could reduce breast cancer deaths by about 28 percent.
“Mammograms do provide some benefit, but the problem is the screening is so sensitive it captures tumors without malignant potential,” said Lars Vatten of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Vatten stated that, although the benefits of getting a mammogram justified ongoing national screening programs, women should be given more information about the potential harms.
These “harms” include “[over diagnosis], psychological stress, and high healthcare costs,” according to the publication
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A British review in 2012 concluded that for every life mammograms save, about three other women are unnecessarily treated for a cancer that would never have threatened their lives.
“Mammography does have some benefit in the likelihood of dying from breast cancer, but these benefits are relatively modest. Particularly for women who are at very low risk of breast cancer – the benefits are quite small,” stated Dr. Nancy Keating, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and co-author of a report published in Journal of the American Medical Association.