According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, up to 1/3 of breast cancers, or an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 cases per year don't require treatment. A recent study of the effectiveness of mammogram screening has suggested that not only are mammograms ineffective at catching many cancers, but some of these "cancers" are not only not malignant but also not a health threat.
Are Doctors to Blame for Overdiagnosing or Overtreating?
The study concludes that mammograms are an imperfect tool that doctors utilize in order to catch cancer early enough to improve women's lives and extend their chances for survival. The problem, according to researchers, is that these can sometimes have false alarms, or catch other items that pose no threat of death. In the 1.4 estimated new cases of breast cancer per year, could doctors be overdiagnosing?
Tracking statistical data from 1976 to 2008, researchers made the startling discovery that while mammograms doubled the amount of early cases detected, the amount of late stage cancers detected dropped by 8%, suggesting misdiagnosis. If mammograms were an effective tool, researchers claim that there should be a ratio that suggests for every one new case detected, there is one fewer late stage case detected.
Cancer Treatment Can Threaten a Healthy Person's Health
Cancer treatments often involve radiation, injections, surgeries, and other life altering procedures. Should a person with no need for cancer treatment undergo these procedures, they could face the following:
- nausea, vomiting
- lymphedemia, or the build up of lymph fluids causing swelling
- secondary cancers caused by the cancer treatment itself
- altered mental state, confusion