For millions of women each year, mammograms are a rite of passage – but what if they aren’t actually as effective as we’re told?
A review of eight different scientific trials found that mammograms may be neither effective or safe.
In sum, researchers looked at data on more than 600,000 women between the ages of 39 and 74 who underwent the procedure on a routine basis – and found that many women were misdiagnosed.
As published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the review concluded that mammography may cause more harm than good, because many more women end up being misdiagnosed and mistreated than those actually avoiding terminal breast cancer.
“If we assume that screening reduces breast cancer mortality by 15% and that overdiagnosis and overtreatment is at 30%, it means that for every 2000 women invited for screening throughout 10 years, one will avoid dying of breast cancer and 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been screening, will be treated unnecessarily,” the authors concluded.
A second study published The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found a similar consensus.
The research team, consisting of a clinical epidemiologist, health economist, lawyer, medical ethicist, nurse scientist, pharmacologist, and an oncologic surgeon, found that for every 1,000 women screened in the U.S. over a 10-year annual screening period beginning at age 50, one breast cancer death would be prevented, while a shocking 490 to 670 women would have a false positive, while 70 to 100 would undergo an unnecessary biopsy. Between three and 14 of these women, the study found, would also be over-diagnosed for a non-malignant form of cancer that never even would have become “clinically apparent.”
And other studies have found similar results.
“I believe that if you did have a tumor, the last thing you would want to do is crush that tumor between two plates, because that would spread it,” says general practitioner Dr. Sarah Mybill, as quoted in the documentary film The Promise.