SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) -Breast cancer kills thousands of Americans every year. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms after the age of forty. But, new research shows breast cancer is over diagnosed, and over treated because of mammography screening.
The study, conducted in Norway, analyzed thousands of cancer cases. It shows when you look for breast cancer with mammograms, tumors will be found that would not have caused any problems during a woman's lifetime. In fact, researches say 15-25 percent of breast cancers found by mammograms are harmless. But, most are treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Scott Kendell, from Intermountain Medical Center’s Breast Center, says when tumors are found they are treated. “It may be true that some breast cancers will not result in death if they are left alone. The problem is we don't know which those are. "
Rose Wirthlin’s first mammogram turned up a non deadly form. "The first cancer they found was non-invasive." It was small, and easily removed.
Researches estimate for every 2,500 women offered a screening, one death from breast cancer will be prevented, but six to ten women will be over-diagnosed and treated.
Rose continued her yearly mammograms. “I do not want to take that chance. I won't take that chance."
Two years passed. "The radiologist was taking the scan, and I watched her face turn white, and I asked her with my arm still up the air and my bosom still in the garage door; was anything wrong?”
It was. News from her doctor wasn’t good. “Your cancer is back. It's exactly six weeks old. It doubles every six weeks, you are so lucky you came in."
While researchers say mammography is imperfect, Rose says it saved her life. “It’s well worth the effort, and the study, as far as I’m concerned it certainly wouldn't have done me any good because I would have been dead two years ago."
Dr. Kendell also points out mammograms are followed by other forms of testing before treatment begins. He says it is currently the most reliable tool, along with self examination and yearly physician examinations, for early detection of tumors that could end lives.