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Study: Mammogram benefits overstated | News

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Study: Mammogram benefits overstated
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40,000 women in the United States will die this year due to breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Emily Bowden says she's a lucky survivor.

But she'll never forget the day she was diagnosed.

"A radiologist showed me the white lump on the mammogram that wasn't on the mammogram the year before, and he he said, 'This is suspicious and this has got to come out,'" Bowden said.

Doctors caught her cancer at stage one through a mammogram.

That experienced launched her into volunteering with the Susan G. Komen organization.

Now, Bowden serves as executive director.

Without that mammogram five years ago, Bowden says she might not be here today.

"Bottom line, it saved my life."

But the risks of mammograms have been under-played while the benefits over-hyped, says a long-term study released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"When you look at different age populations, I think that's a correct statement, that in the younger women, the benefits of mammograms have been overstated because the instances of breast cancer are so low to begin with," Dr. Linda Hendricks, an oncologist with Central Georgia Cancer Care, told 13WMAZ.

The Harvard study finds mammograms reduce the risk of death due to breast cancer by 19%.

That's about 7,600 lives saved a year.

For women in their 40s, the risk of death is reduced by 15%; for women in their 60s, the risk is reduced by 32%.

But the study also finds middle-aged women who go through a decade of annual mammograms have a 61% chance of a false-positive.

"It means there's an abnormality found that hints at breast cancer and more procedures are done, but a breast cancer diagnosis was never made because it was never there to begin with," Hendricks said.

Dr. Hendricks says other risks include over-diagnosis, when a small tumor is found, but it's non-invasive and non-threatening to a woman's life.

That screening can lead to over-treatment like unnecessary radiation and emotional stress.

But for those who have battled cancer and won, the risks are far outweighed by the assurance of good health.

"I'd rather be safe than sorry," Bowden said.

Dr. Hendricks says women should talk to their doctors and make an individual decision to get a mammogram based on factors like age and family history.

For more information on mammograms and where you can get tested, visit komencentralga.org and cgbreastcarecenter.org.

You can also call Central Georgia's chapter of the Susan G. Komen organization at 478-390-4828.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ and on Twitter @anita_oh.


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