Is it possible that not all breast cancer is bad news?
Yes, it’s true.
Many women are overdiagnosed and treated for breast cancer that would never cause a problem for them throughout their entire lives if left alone according to a recent article published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Associate Professor Robin Bell of Monash University in Australia, says:
“Overdiagnosis amounts to women having a small, slow-growing cancer being diagnosed and treated, where in her lifetime that cancer may not have required treatment.”
Professor Bell is calling for a more balanced approach to breast cancer screening which fully informs women of the harm of breast cancer screening/treatment versus the very small or negligible benefits of treatment for such slow growing, nonlifethreatening breast cancers.
A 2010 study found that for every 2000 women screened over a 10 year period, only one woman would have her life prolonged as a result of the screenings yet 10 women would be treated unnecessarily.
The results of this study certainly put in the spotlight whether mammography has any benefit whatsoever particularly given that the radiation exposing screening method causes breast cancer itself!
They certainly don’t seem like very appealing odds to me!
As a middle aged woman who has never had a mammogram nor plans to ever have one (following in the footsteps of my 86 year old mother who has refused them all her life), this study adds further evidence of the wisdom of such an out of the box decision.
It would behoove women given the dire diagnosis of breast cancer to delve into whether their breast cancer really and truly requires treatment or would in fact be better left alone. At the very least, a second or even a third opinion would seem warranted.
Sometimes bad news might not really be bad news after all.
UPDATE: A far better way to screen safely for breast cancer and avoid the misdiagnosis potential of mammograms is to get annual breast ultrasound screening. How to do this without a prescription and the 7 benefits to health in doing so are provided in the linked article. Breast thermography is another safe, effective, no radiation tool for cancer screening that does not result in overtreatment or misdiagnosis.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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