Benefit of Mammogram's Questioned in Study

As many are looking at the changes to their heath care that goes into effect Thursday, a study was released that has the medical community divided.

The New England Journal of Medicine published findings from Norway and Harvard researchers comparing death rates among women with breast cancer.

Here's where the controversy is; the study suggests mammogram's aren't as effective as once thought in women over 50.

According to Dr. Sumi King, with the Women's Clinic in Wichita Falls, a headline doesn't always have merit. "I always want to look at these things with a grain of salt because just cause it grabs a headline, doesn't necessarily mean it was a well designed study," she says.

Although Dr. King is not intimately familiar with the controversial study that says mammogram's may not be as beneficial to women, she is alarmed at how a simple headline can potentially hurt a woman's chances of survival.

"That's one of my biggest concerns is that people would - and especially women who don't want to get their mammograms," Dr. King explains, "Those will be the people that will probably be more swayed by a news blurb like that as an excuse to not have their mammogram done."

Leslie Gauthier, a Mammogram Technician with the Women's Clinic agrees saying "It does make the people who don't have a mammogram say, 'oh I don't need one'."

That approach can be deadly thinking. 1 out of every 8 women by the time they are 80 will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of that, 30-40% of women are diagnosed when they are in their 40's. Yet, 98% of breast cancer is cured-as long as it's detected early. Part of the early detection process, is the use of mammograms.

"We are detecting breast cancer so early now that people aren't dying from it. Because it's caught early and there is a 98% cure rate when it's caught early," she says. "Whereas if they don't get their mammogram and it just sits and sits there and it's not caught early, then we are going to see an increase in the number of women dying from it again."

That's a chance that Gauthier doesn't want to take.

"Can you live with your decision not to have your mammogram next year? If you skip a year and you come back and something is there, are you going to kick yourself in the butt for not coming in for your mammogram," warns Gauthier.

The study does suggest that increased breast cancer awareness, such as knowing your family history, administering self breast exams, and having an annual mammogram help a woman's chances of survival.

Those who are concerned about the cost of a mammogram, shouldn't worry. The health care legislation that goes into effect Thursday, covers yearly mammograms.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6