Study disputes value of routine mammograms

By: AP, Gabby Gonzalez Email
By: AP, Gabby Gonzalez Email

A Canadian study that many experts say has major flaws has revived a debate about the value of mammograms.

The study suggests that these screening X-rays do not lower the risk of dying of breast cancer while finding many tumors that do not need treatment.

The study gives longer follow-up on nearly 90,000 women who were given either a breast exam by a nurse to check for lumps plus a mammogram or the breast exam alone.

After more than two decades of follow-up, death rates were similar in the two groups, suggesting little impact from mammograms.

Breast cancer survivors like Melanie Bizoe reject the study's findings.

"It was so scary when I heard the word 'cancer," Bizoe said. "But I am so thankful that I had that mammogram because that is why I'm here."

Bizoe was just 38 years old when she got her diagnosis.

"I had never had a mammogram," she said. "By the time I would have been 40, in my scenario, I would not be here. It would have probably been stage 4 cancer."

Dr. Michael Rotkis, director for breast cancer services at St. Joe Regional Medical Center, has seen studies like this one before.

"We have to look at it with some scrutiny," Rotkis said. "Why is this in so much contradiction to what we always thought?"

He said there is a reason doctors recommend such a wide range of people get annual screenings.

"We're going to paint with a broad stroke because we don't want to miss anyone," Rotkis said. "We know there are high-risk patients that benefits and low-risk patients that probably don't. But how do you separate those out? Until we can do that we're going to continue to paint with broad strokes."

While Rotkis said he will look at the study with an "academic eye," he does not plan on making any drastic changes to his practice.

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