FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The results of a 25-year study out of Canada are in, and are raising questions for both patients and doctors. Almost 90,000 women ages 40-59 were screened in the study. Researchers found no difference in deaths from breast cancer between woman who got mammograms and those who did not. While the screening took five years to complete, the women were followed for up to 25 years.
Dr. William Petty is the medical director of the Breast Diagnostic Center at Parkview and said the study is incredibly misleading.
“The Canadian Breast Screening Study is really unfortunate because it does a disservice to women everywhere. It does a disservice to the reputation of mammography, which is a proven test that has been clearly shown to decrease breast cancer death,” said Dr. Petty.
Dr. Petty believes the study is fatally flawed for several reasons.
“The mammography equipment they used to do the screening was considered sub-standard at that time, it was not state of the art mammogram equipment for the 1980’s. The mammogram technologists who did the mammograms, who positioned the patients for the mammogram had no formal training about how to position the patient to get the optimum visualization of the breast tissue. Another significant flaw in their study is that their study was not a randomized, clinical trial,” said Dr. Petty.
22 percent of the cancers detected by mammograms were considered unlikely to ever be life-threatening, or cause death. Some critics argue going through chemotherapy and radiation is not worth it if the cancer is not going to be fatal. Dr. Petty said it’s not worth the risk because there is no way to tell what path cancer will take.
“We have no way of predicting which breast cancers will stay relatively benign and not be aggressive, and which cancers will become aggressive and spread elsewhere.”
The Canadian findings are not the first to question mammograms. Previous studies in recent years have also caused confusion for both doctors and patients regarding the right age to start getting mammograms. Back in 2009, an independent task force said 50 was the right age for women to get their first mammogram. Until that study, the recommended age was 40. The study also regulated the frequency of mammograms, saying woman only needed to get once every two years as opposed to every year. Despite those previous studies, doctors still recommend getting a mammogram every year, starting at age 40.
“The data clearly shows that mammography is equally effective in women 40 to 49 as in women 50 and older. There’s no magic thing that happens when you turn 50,” said Dr. Petty.
Dr. Petty also stresses the importance of routine mammograms and said it is the only test that’s been clearly documented to decrease breast cancer deaths.
“All of your viewers should disregard this Canadian study and continue on with their regular mammograms because by doing so, we can find breast cancers when they are very small and easy to take care of.”
Women looking to schedule a mammogram in the Northeast Indiana area can schedule an appointment at several locations: