Does Mammography Result in Overtreatment?
Woloshin's survey also found that the vast majority of women are aware that
mammography can sometimes indicate an abnormality that isn't actually there,
commonly referred to as a false-positive result. False-positive results can
cause unnecessary anxiety, testing, and occasionally treatment, but most women
surveyed said they felt such results are an acceptable part of the screening
The women also were asked about the safety of mammography and the perceived
benefit. Overall, 92% of women thought mammography was safe, and 94% believed
that women whose cancer was diagnosed by mammography benefited from being
screened. Most women also believed mammography reduced the chance of dying from
breast cancer, although none thought mammography reduced the risk to zero.
The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for all women 40
years of age and older. Along with having mammograms, women should also perform
monthly breast self-exams, and those 40 years of age and older should receive
an exam of the breast and underarm by a health care professional each year. Any
unusual nipple discharge, mass, tenderness, or dimpling of the skin should be
reported to a physician immediately.
- Women may understand the importance of receiving regular mammograms, but
they may not know about common abnormalities that may be detected.
- One such abnormality is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is a
precancerous lesion that may or may not progress to breast cancer, but there
isn't a consensus on how this should be managed.
- Another common occurrence is when mammography picks up an abnormality that
isn't really there, known as a false-positive.