Adding an annual mammogram to a careful physical examination of the breasts does not improve breast cancer survival rates over getting the examination alone, new research reports. This finding is particularly important since annual mammograms, beginning as early as age 40, is an almost universal practice.
Interestingly, although mammography does leads to the discovery of smaller, earlier stage tumors, it still does not improve breast cancer survival rates over examination alone.
One possible reason for a lack of survival benefit from mammograms “is that treatment of breast cancer has improved to such an extent that there is no longer any benefit from screening,” the study’s authors report. In addition, the results “suggest another option for screening women over the age of 50 years: annual physical examination and the teaching of breast self-examination by skilled health professionals.”
The Canadian National Breast Screening Study-2 (CNBSS-2) has been following more than 39,000 women assigned either to annual physical examination or examination plus mammography since the mid-1980s.
Now, in the latest of an ongoing series of updates, the authors report the results 11 to 16 years after the start of the study.
Mammography continues to offer earlier detection, however. According to the report, mammography plus physical examination provides a 3.6-year advantage in detection-time over no screening, whereas physical examination provides only a 1.5 year advantage.
Consistent with this 2.1-year lead-time advantage, tumors detected by mammography plus physical examination tend to be smaller and are less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes, the researchers report.
Unfortunately, the investigators admit, these apparent advantages do not translate into an increased survival rate for women screened with mammography plus physical examination.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute September 20, 2000;92:1490-1499
Dr. Dekel comments:
More data is coming to light, showing that Mammography not only doesn’t save lives, but also the compression and radiation that women are exposed to, actually increases the risk for developing breast cancer.
Cancer is a preventable disease, educate yourself abut what you can do to reduce your risk.
Start by investigating breast thermography, and see how you can assess your risk, and then follow our prevention protocol.