New study sparks debate about benefits of routine mammograms

mammogram

A new study said yearly mammograms aren't lowering breast cancer rates, but doctors persist they are crucial in early detection. (Photo: KWGN)

A study published in the British Medical Journal said yearly mammograms aren’t lowering  breast cancer death rates in women between the ages of 40 and 59.

This prompted concerns that women may mistakenly see this as a reason to skip their mammograms.

Researchers followed nearly 90,000 women, who were randomly assigned either to get screening mammograms or not receive them.

While mammography detected many more invasive breast cancers, it did not decrease the number of deaths from the disease.

“The take away is most cancers diagnosed were not necessarily those (that) decreased life expectancy,” said Dr. Carla Simonian of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Critics said researchers used outdated equipment to measure the benefits of mammograms. Many clinical trials showed mammograms reduced the death rate from breast cancer in women in their 50s by 20 percent.

The study’s findings were a topic of debate, but one thing the medical community agreed on is that early detection of breast cancer allows women to receive treatment that gives them a fighting chance.

Kaiser Permanente OB/GYN Andrea Jazbec-Lake, a breast cancer survivor, said a mammogram revealed she had the disease.

“At 40, I  had my first mammogram and that was normal. Then, at 42, I had my second mammogram, it showed an abnormality and further investigation revealed it to be an invasive cancer,”  said Jazbec-Lake.

She received treatment right away and is now helping other women to understand the importance of safeguarding their health.

“A mammogram is going to detect breast cancer at what we call a preclinical stage before you can feel a mas,” said Jazbec-Lake.

For more information about breast cancer you can visit Kaiser Permanente’s informational breast cancer webpage or the American Cancer Society website.