The change in mammogram guidelines

The question seemed simple enough: Should women in their 40s be advised to get routine mammograms in the hopes of catching breast cancers while they are still small and, presumably, easier to treat? But the more an expert panel of doctors, nurses and preventive health specialists studied the data, the harder it was to come up with an answer.

Without screening, 3.5 out of every 1,000 women ages 40 to 49 will die of breast cancer in the next 10 years; regular mammography can reduce that number to 3. The panel calculated that to save one life among women in this age group, 1,900 women must be screened annually for 10 years. The other 1,899 women will receive no benefit from mammography over that period, though they will field 1,330 call-backs for reassessment and 665 breast biopsies, and eight of them will be diagnosed with cancers whose prognosis will not be altered by detection via mammogram — either because they would never become dangerous or because they are so aggressive that there’s little to be done. Read more…

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