New Research Shows That Mammograms May Not Be as Crucial As You Think

Women above the age of 50 have long been told that getting a mammogram every 2 years was a necessity. In the United States, it seems like women take heed — health professionals conduct 37 million mammograms on an annual basis, with 3/4 of women 40+ receiving a mammogram in the past year. Preventative screenings like these were thought to be key to catching cancer and helping women pursue treatment before the disease progressed too far.

Yet a recently-released study now has researchers questioning the value of mammograms. Here are the insights that this 25-year study revealed — and what they mean for women’s health.

How Important are Mammograms?

Published in The British Medical Journal, the Canadian study examined 90,000 women over a 25-year period. 44,925 women were randomly assigned to have regular breast cancer exams and mammograms administered by trained nurses. The 44,910 others were required to just have breast exams.

Test Smartly Labs | Study Shows Mammograms May Not Be as Crucial As You ThinkFrom the group that received both mammograms and breast exams, 3,250 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 500 women died from the disease. In the group that received just breast exams, 3,133 women were diagnosed and 505 women died. The death rate due to breast cancer was the same for both groups of study participants, but in the mammogram group, 1 in 424 women were subjected to unnecessary treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

Overall, the researchers found that there was no distinct advantage to uncovering breast cancer when it was not detectable by a physical examination.

So are mammograms useful, or not?

Other studies on the value of mammograms have shown that regular mammograms reduce cancer death rate by 15% in 40 – 50 year-old women and 20% in women over 50. Some argue that these studies do not adequately reflect the use of tamoxifen, a drug that’s now routinely used in breast cancer treatment. With more effective treatments in place and a general higher awareness about the dangers of breast cancer, more women are pursuing and receiving better care for their breast cancer.

How will these findings affect mammogram requirements?

Breast cancer advocates and experts may take issue with the study and continue to share the importance of regular mammograms. Currently, a panel arranged by the American Cancer Society is analyzing mammogram studies to develop their revised guidelines, which should be released later this year.

Whether or not the United States will alter its mammogram suggestions remains to be seen. Thankfully, routine breast exams and other cancer screening procedures, such as cancer blood panels, can be used to effectively detect cancer early on.

Many of the Test Smartly Labs located nationwide offer cancer screening to help catch cancer so that treatment can be pursued — find a participating location near you today!

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