A new study shows that as many as one-third of all tumors revealed by mammograms may be benign, and focus on mammography may have resulted in the overdiagnosis of breast cancer in more than a million women in the past 30 years. However, avoiding mammograms may lead to failure to diagnose malignant cancers as well.
The study purports that rising breast cancer survival rates are more likely due to improvements in treatment rather than screening. The author argues that the overuse of mammograms results in the identification of non-threatening tumors; these diagnoses then subject 70,000 women per year to needless surgery. The improvements in screening have led to the identification of previously missed tumors that, in the past, would have been left alone and would not have caused illness, according to the study. Detractors of the study claim that this theory is part of a campaign to cut back on screening tests in an effort to reduce healthcare costs.
Women who notice a lump or other abnormality in their breasts are still advised to have screening done. However, the controversy continues to rage over what the findings of those tests might reveal. One school of thought says that early-stage cancer cells may never grow into full-blown breast cancer, a process that is not yet perfectly understood, and that early detection may precipitate needless and even dangerous surgery.
Women who have experienced a misdiagnosis in breast cancer or another type of illness may want to consult a medical malpractice attorney. Misdiagnosis of breast cancer can lead to life-threatening consequences.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Study questions value of mammography screening," Monte Morin, Nov. 21, 2012