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Understand mammogram screening

Brodersen J and colleagues published an article in the March 2010 issue of Polskie archiwum medycyny wewn?trznej saying that women considering mammogram screening should be advised on benefits and risks of the breast cancer screening in absolute numbers so they can make an informed decision.

The authors pointed out that mammogram screening protect some women from dying from breast cancer, but many more women will be over-diagnosed, receive needless treatment, and false positive diagnosis and suffer both physical and mental stress.

Brodersen J et al said systematic reviews of randomized trials showed that to have one woman's life prolonged, 2000 women need to be screened for 10 years. 

In addition, among these 2000 women for the 10-year period, 10 healthy women will be over-diagnosed with breast cancer and receive unnecessary treatment; more than 200 women will suffer substantial psychosocial distress for months because of false positive diagnosis.

The authors said regular breast self-examination does not help reduce breast cancer mortality, but doubles the number of biopsies. And the benefits of routine clinical breast examination remain unknown, but clinical trial results suggest that the method is likely harmful.

Other screening methods including thermography, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imagine remain unknown, and it is unclear whether mammogram screening does more good than harm.

Brodersen J and colleagues published another study recently revealing that mammogram screening did cut breast cancer mortality.

By David Liu