Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mammogram debate rages on

Here we go again!

You may have seen a range of headlines this morning debating the effectiveness of mammography. “Mammograms offer ‘modest’ benefit, Study says” or “New Study Questions mammograms.” Or “Study: Mammograms safe lives – Just not as many as expected.”

Mary Lou Wilson
In the past year it seems like the debate on mammograms has continued raging despite so much overwhelming evidence to support the benefits of mammography. The news media seems focused on the article of the researchers from Norway where mammograms are done every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 69; additionally, the entire study is “observational,” which means there is some question as to validity of the data collection because the comparison groups are not really comparable.

If one continues to read the New England Journal of Medicine, there is an editorial in the same edition by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, and he states that “In the past 50 years, more than 600,000 women have participated in 10 randomized trials, each involving approximately 10 years of follow-up.” These studies have shown the overwhelming benefits of mammography. He goes on to say that “… no one can argue that screening mammography is one of the most important services we provide in medicine.”

Bottom line – mammography saves women’s lives, whether it is one per thousand or 100 per thousand. Would you want to be the one woman who did not get a mammogram and die from breast cancer? It is that simple, why not do everything we can do to save lives? Mammography is relatively inexpensive compared to the treatment cost of breast cancer. Do what is in the best interest of you and your family! If you are 50 or over, get a yearly mammogram. The United States Preventative Services Task Force encourages women ages 40 to 49 to talk with their health care provider and make informed decisions about when to start mammography screening. If you are under 40, go for your yearly physician’s visit and get a clinical breast exam. For more information, go to or

As for myself, I’m sticking with my yearly mammogram schedule.

Mary Lou Wilson, RN, BSN
Director, Women's Services
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more with your assessment. I hope people listen. I rarely find breast cancers in the office in women who have had annual mammograms.