Poll: What Are Your Thoughts on the Debate Over Routine Mammograms?

BY News Desk  December 26, 2012 at 1:30 PM EST

Online, we asked two influential doctors to weigh in:

Dr. Archie Bleyer, co-author of the New England Journal of Medicine study, said in his opinion piece that 1.5 million additional women have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in the last 30 years — a terrific finding if it meant that 1.5 fewer women had been diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. “We could then conclude that screening had indeed advanced the time of diagnosis and provided the opportunity of fewer deaths and/or less therapy for 1.5 million women,” he wrote.

“Instead and disappointingly, we found that there were only about 140,000 fewer women with a diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer. The discrepancy between 1,500,000 and 140,000 meant that more than 1.3 million women were told they had early-stage cancer and underwent surgery or surgery with radiation, years of hormone therapy, and in some, chemotherapy for a ‘cancer’ that if they had done nothing was never going affect them.”

Expressing the other side was Dr. Sandra Swain, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She wrote in this blog that mammograms may lead to overdiagnosis, but they’re currently the most effective tool available to screen for breast cancer.

“When you diagnose a breast cancer at an earlier stage, you are able to give the patient less treatment … less women may need less surgery or systemic therapy such as chemotherapy. So this is really a great benefit for patients to have an earlier diagnosis,” she wrote.

In addition, we heard from Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention. He explained the costs and benefits of mammography that he said every woman should consider before making her own decision.

Related Resource: Infographic: Are Mammograms Effective?