Mammograms, it seems, are sort of a fraud:
…numerous trials of mammography have indeed randomly assigned nearly 600,000 women to undergo either regular mammography screening or no screening. The results of more than a decade of follow-up on such studies, published more than 10 years ago, show that women in the mammogram group were just as likely to die as women in the no-mammogram group. The women having mammograms were, however, more likely to be treated for cancer and have surgeries like a mastectomy. (Some of the studies include trials from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and this major reviewof the data.)
In other words, mammograms increased diagnoses and surgeries, but didn’t save lives—exactly what the researchers behind last week’s observational study concluded.
I say sort of because they do save a few lives:
…there is a fraction of cancers that are deadly but, when found at just the right moment, can have their courses changed by treatment. Women with these cancers are helped by mammograms. Clinical trial data suggests that 1 woman per 1,000 healthy women screened over 10 years falls into this category, although experts say that number is probably even smaller today because of advances in breast cancer treatments.
So that means, at best .001 of women screened are specifically helped by a mammogram. Case closed, right? Wrong. The reason I say long live mammograms is because of Black women:
Black women had a lower incidence rate (116.9 cases per 100,000) compared with white women (122.1) but a higher percentage of cancers diagnosed at regional or distant stage (45% versus 35%) . In addition, black women had a 41% higher rate of breast cancer mortality (31.6 deaths per 100,000) during 2005–2009 than did white women (22.4 deaths per 100,000).
I can’t dismiss mammograms all together when I know that the women in my community die at a 41% higher rate than whites. I have to consider the amount of Black women who can be saved by a mammogram. Obviously, the ladies of melanin are far fewer than their paler counterparts in America, but that number gives me great pause…forty-one percent. The biggest reason that keeps me from dismissing mammograms altogether is the lack of an alternative. In neither article that I quote above does the author or anyone quoted propose an alternative to screening. Hopefully something new, and life-saving will show up on the horizon soon, so we can end all this spending (5 billion), but for now it could be the difference for far too many Black women for me to kick it to the curb.
Tags: Black women
, breast cancer