Oncology Central

Over- and under-estimating the value of screening mammography

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There has been a recent flurry of publications stressing the shortcomings or risks of undergoing routine screening mammography [1–4]. Other recent papers have offered counter-arguments, praising the merits of mammography [5–8]. The resulting war of ideas is confusing.

Those critical of the historical value given to mammography emphasize two important concepts: mammography causes more harms than had been acknowledged and contributes less benefits than had been alleged. The usual stated harms of mammography include: overdiagnosis, false-positive tests, unnecessary biopsies, psychological or physical distress and increased costs. In addition to harms, those who are critical of claims that mammography saves lives, stress the importance of modern cancer therapies in decreasing disease-specific deaths.

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