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Giant Study Of Studies: Mammography Works

September 14, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Medical Ethics
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A massive review of published studies has found that the life-saving benefits of mammography-based breast cancer screening in Europe outweigh the negatives.

Specifically, the study found that for every 1,000 women age 50 to 51, screened every two years through age 69 and followed through age 79:

  • Seven to nine lives are saved; 71 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Four cases are overdiagnosed (meaning that cancers are found and treated that, if left alone, would not have bothered the women during their lifetimes).
  • False positives total 200. Of those patients, 170 are recalled for noninvasive follow-up assessment that determines that they do not in fact have cancer, and 30 are recalled for invasive follow-up assessment (biopsies) before being given the all-clear.

The study was published online Thursday as part of a special supplemental issue of the Journal of Medical Screening. Stephen Duffy, one of the authors, said of the study:

It reports results from screening millions of women and confirms that the screening services are delivering the benefits expected from the research studies conducted years ago. In particular, it is good news that lives saved by screening outweigh overdiagnosed cases by a factor of two to one.

Duffy is professor of cancer screening at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London. He was quoted in a Queen Mary news release.

Duffy is also a coordinator of the EUROSCREEN Working Group, which conducted the study. EUROSCREEN, also known as the European Screening Network, consists of members from nine European countries where screening is studied and outcomes assessed: Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Another big working group, the European Network for Indicators on Cancer (EUNICE), participated in the review as well. EUNICE includes representatives from all of the EUROSCREEN countries except France, plus Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, and Switzerland.

This won’t be the final word. But it’s another affirmation of the value of mammography.

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A survey finds that women would rather go to a drugstore than a clinic or hospital for mammograms. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: UCSF Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography (free domestic shipping for a limited time)

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