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The trouble with mammograms

Title: The trouble with mammograms

Author: Christie Aschwanden

Publication:  Los Angeles Times

Publication Date: August 17, 2009

For years, breast cancer awareness campaigns have urged women over 40 to get a yearly mammogram. When women hesitate to comply, it’s often to avoid the discomfort of having their breasts squeezed or the fear of getting called back for more tests, even if it turns out there’s no cancer.

But screening poses another downside: A routine mammogram can find cancers that would never have become life-threatening, subjecting women to painful and toxic treatments they never actually needed.

A new study calculates that this is just what happens in as many as one in every three breast cancers diagnosed by a screening mammogram. That research, published July 9 in the British Medical Journal, comes on the heels of several other studies suggesting that some breast cancers found on mammograms would naturally have regressed on their own without treatment.

The studies don’t mean that women should abandon mammography, most experts say. But some think it’s time to reconsider the way that mammogram screening is done.

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