You know the old expression, “Don’t blog angry,” right?
On my way in to work this morning, I heard a story about the stunning cost of false positives of mammography.
Some good information here: 700,000 women’s cases (aged 40-59) were studied. 11% were called back based on the results of their mammograms. 98.6% of those turned out to be false positives. This costs billions. Then, some indolent cancers are found and treated like they were life-threatening. More billions.
Plus stress. Plus side effects. Plus the cascading unintended consequences.
At this point in the story, I am happy that we’re talking about this, rather than deferring to fear-based marketing about the wonders of mammography and early detection.
Then they close with a counterpoint from a doctor who says these costs are overstated. I’d argue that they are understated because you can’t put a dollar value on a lot of this. And he said that mammography is the best screening tool we have. I might agree with that, although I wish he would have said that it’s not good enough.
The report closed with a statement that this doctor says mammograms reduce deaths from breast cancer by 20%
What the hell???
THEN I got to work, logged into the website and the opening line of the article says: “There’s no question mammograms can save lives by detecting breast cancer early.”
W T F?????
Of course there are questions about that claim. Mammograms have been shown to provide a tiny benefit, at best, and mostly to older women. How do I know that? NPR REPORTED IT.
From that article: “Mammograms don’t reduce the number of women dying from breast cancer, according to a large and long-term Canadian study.”
This is shoddy journalism.
Of course the real harm here is not my blood pressure, it’s the perpetuation of incorrect medical information.