Breast cancer controversy causes confusion
A Canadian research team stirred up controversy recently with a study that suggests mammogram screenings don’t lower the number of deaths caused by breast cancer. The study in question was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reportedly has women questioning the necessity of breast cancer screenings. Other members of the world medical community, however, are quick to question that assumption.
Doctor Jean Weigert, director of breast imaging for the Hospital of Central Connecticut, told the press the Canadian study “was based on data collated from the early 1980s on poor equipment with technologists who did the mammograms who were not very well trained. This data goes back 30 years and has been published several times, and each time the data has been questioned by experts in the field.”
Research indicates that since the study was conducted there have also been significant advances in the development of the equipment used in mammogram screenings. More recently published articles concerning breast cancer prevention also show that in the past few years there has been more than a 30 percent improvement in the results and mortality rates.
Additionally, other doctors are questioning whether or not the study was “truly randomized”. If the subjects were not properly chosen and assigned to the groups involved the results could have been skewed. It has also been suggested that the narrow focus of the study—how mammograms influence whether a woman lives or dies—may also have a negative impact not only on the Canadian team’s conclusions but on women’s attitude towards mammograms in general.
Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum who recently wrote about the subject in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine did not seem surprised over this debate. She wrote: “We pick and choose evidence.” This is especially true in regards to how women may view the controversial study.
The director and breast surgeon at Bristol Hospital’s Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness, Doctor Sai Varanasi, wanted to assure women that regardless of the study there is nothing wrong with getting screened regularly once they reach the age of 40 because screening has no negative effects.
Advocates and physicians across the country are telling women to ignore the research in question and urging them to continue to get screened for breast cancer on a regular basis. Oncologist Vicky Lee, M.D., Ph.D., from Samaritan Hematology and Oncology Consultants in Oregon reported: “We can’t cure cancer if we can’t detect it early.”
(Image courtesy of EndAllDisease)