April 3, 2000 (Chantilly, Va.) -- Medical experts say there are several
reasons why a mammogram may fail to detect a cancerous tumor:
The technology. Mammograms involve squeezing a woman's breast between two
plates of glass -- a technique that is awkward at best. Old or badly maintained
equipment and poorly trained technicians can increase the odds of an inaccurate
The quality of a woman's breast. Mammograms aren't good at detecting
cancers in breast tissue that is dense or fibrous, as is common among female
athletes and premenopausal women.
The pace of medicine. With radiologists under pressure to read more films
more quickly, the risk of making mistakes has grown.
Studies on mammogram accuracy show that screenings miss anywhere from 5% to
17% of abnormalities. Yet many patients continue to believe that a
"clear" mammogram is the same as a clean bill of health.
First-trimester radiation therapy should be avoided. Chemotherapy may be given after the first trimester as discussed in the section on Early Stage Breast Cancer. Because the mother may have a limited life span (most studies show a 5-year survival rate of 10% in pregnant patients with stage III and IV disease), and there is a risk of fetal damage with treatment during the first trimester,[1,2] issues regarding continuation of the pregnancy should be discussed with the patient and her family. Therapeutic...
"Even though there is no perfect test, and no perfect doctor, and no
perfect reading, patients expect perfect results,'' says Phan Huynh, M.D., a
breast imaging specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in
Michael D. Towle writes regularly for WebMD on health and