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“Mammograms: Do They Save Lives ?”

Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the United States. Yet, screening mammograms (breast x-rays) in females is still controversial and confusing. This method of detection, combined with self exams, is  fairly good in detecting early stage cancer of the breast. Yet, definite diagnosis of a suspicious breast mass can only be established through fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), core needle biopsy, or excisional biopsy. The Komen Cancer Foundation, known for its high-profile “pink ribbon” campaign, has been accused of overselling pre-emptive mammography, using misleading statistics in its pro-screening campaigns and understating the risks. Professors Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz take issue with a Komen poster comparing the 98-percent five-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early, with a 23-percent rate for later diagnosis.  Instead, they say, “In reality a mammogram only narrowly decreases the chances that a 50-year-old woman will die from breast cancer within 10 years from 0.53 percent to 0.46 percent.”

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