NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The value of mammograms is being questioned by a comprehensive new study.
A 25-year Canadian study following 90,000 women found yearly mammography screening in middle-aged women did not reduce breast cancer deaths.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that mammograms are not any better at helping women beat the disease than self exams or routine physicals by a doctor.
But as CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, many experts are casting doubts on the highly controversial study released Wednesday.
“As we get better with our treatments, does screening make as big a difference as it did? That really is the question that needs to be answered,” said Dr. Susan Boolbol, Chief of Breast Surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Researchers followed 90,000 women who either got yearly mammograms for five years or no mammograms at all. After 25 years of follow up, it found no difference in overall survival rates between the two groups.
“I vehemently disagree with the study that was published and I disagree with how it was done,” said Dr. Laurie Margolies, direcotr of breast imaging at the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Dr. Margolies said there were numerous problems with the study, including outdated mammography equipment and techniques.
“That’s why every machine in the United States, every technologist, every physician in the United States must meet certain requirements. Those didn’t exist at the time of the mammograms performed that were talked about in the study,” said the doctor.
The American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging also blasted the study, calling it “an incredibly misleading analysis based on the deeply flawed and widely discredited Canadian National Breast Screening Study (CNBSS).”
“There is no flawless study. We do things very differently, like everything in life, than we did in the 80s,” said Dr. Elisa Port, Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. “There is no question, from my perspective and those of us that do this, that the recommendations for mammograms should not change.”
LINK: Read The Study
Dr. Patrick Borgen, chairman of the Department of Surgery at Maimonides Medical Center and director of the Brooklyn Breast Cancer Project, also called the findings flawed and detrimental.
“To look back 30 years and conclude that mammograms today don’t impact patients’ lives is really outrageous,” said Borgen.
Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin had a screening mammogram at age 41 and found a very early but widespread cancer. She needed a mastectomy but the early detection saved her from even more treatment.
“If mammograms can pick early breast cancer up that prevents us from having chemotherapy, I think that’s a worthwhile study as well,” she told Gomez.
Medical experts also recommend that women who have a family history of cancer or have doubts continue to get mammograms.
The American Cancer Society announced Wednesday it is convening an expert panel to evaluate all the evidence on mammography but that it doesn’t think this study will change its recommendations.
Dr. Margolies emphatically reiterated that women should continue to have mammograms and that they save lives.
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