Widely considered one of the best ways to reduce breast cancer risk, annual mammograms have been called into question by one of the most extensive studies ever done on the screening test. On Tuesday, the British Medical Journal published a 25 year-long Canadian study that found that yearly mammography screenings (x-ray exams) do not reduce breast cancer deaths any more so than clinical breast exams (physical exams performed by a doctor.)
This finding is especially significant for Black women, who are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women (and less likely to be diagnosed,) as Dr. Janna Andrews told NewsOne.
Nearly 90,000 Canadian women ages 45 to 59 were randomly selected to receive either five annual mammograms or annual clinical breast exams. The results revealed 500 breast cancer deaths among those who received mammography screenings and 505 deaths from breast cancer among those who only had physical exams. Moreover, about one in five of the cancers detected via mammograms were “over-diagnosed.”
“Twenty-two per cent of women with screen-detected invasive breast cancer got treatment that they really didn’t need,” study author Dr. Cornelia Baines told CBC News. “All over-diagnosis results in unnecessary surgery, unnecessary chemotherapy, unnecessary radiotherapy and unnecessary hormonal therapy.”
To be clear, the study advocates women being informed about the benefits and disadvantages of mammography, urging policy-makers to reassess the rationale for screenings.
“The bottom line is that as breast cancer treatment improves, the outcomes of average risk patients diagnosed at an earlier stage thanks to mammography and those diagnosed later due to lack of mammography become similar,” said Baines.
Must Read: Why Breast Cancer Checks Still Save Lives
The major strengths of this meticulous study include its randomized design, intense intervention and complete, long-term follow-up, according to an accompanying editorial titled “Too Much Mammography.” Potential limits of the research, such as a lack of quantitative data in certain areas of the trial period, were also pointed out, but considered unlikely to have made a significant impact overall.
However, in a written response rejecting the study’s conclusion, Daniel B. Kopans, professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School alleged that the mammograms were performed incorrectly by the trials technologists and radiologists and were conducted with second hand machines to “save money.”
“Having been one of the experts called on in 1990 to review the quality of their mammograms I can personally attest to the fact that the quality was poor,” he wrote.
One of the largest and most modern ever conducted, this mammogram study makes a bold claim, given that many experts worldwide, including the U.S.-based National Cancer Institute, advise mammogram screening tests every one to two years to help reduce the number of breast cancer deaths among women ages 40 to 70.
While debate on the usefulness and benefits of mammography screenings is an ongoing one, the fact remains that African-American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer.
No explicit disparities among the ethnicity or race of the study’s participants were mentioned, yet the Office of Women’s Health reports that African-American women’s tumors are found at a later, more advanced stage and are more likely to be diagnosed with a form of breast cancer that spreads more quickly.
So, what does this study mean for African-American women?
Because no method of breast cancer prevention is guaranteed, Black women and their families should remain vigilant and informed on recent developments around this deadly disease.
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Celebs Tweet Their Thoughts About #JusticeForSandraBland
1. Jesse Williams
#SandraBland's treatment while attempting to travel freely on HER public roadways has been acknowledged as unlawful. She is already dead.
2. Taraji P. Henson
"SAY HER NAME #SandraBland"
3. Ava DuVernay
"'Why are you arresting me?' Because you know your rights. Because I can. Because no one'll believe you. #SandraBland"
4. Kim Kardashian
#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!
5. Jussie Smollet
"A loss 4 words. #SandraBlandMatters #BlackLivesMatter 👈🏿tell me this should change once the nation shows that we do. "
6. Snoop Dogg
🙏🌹. Sandra. Rip. 🌹🌹
7. K. Michelle
R.I.P to this queen. This could've been any of us. My prayers go out to her family. #sandrabland https://instagram.com/p/5fvlO_AhCf/
8. Gabrielle Union
SAY HER NAME!!! #SandraBland #SandraBland #SandraBland #SayHerName
"We must get to the cause of #sandrabland death because this CANNOT happen again #deathorfreedom"
10. David Banner
"When will we fight back. A man's duty on earth is to protect women and children. Where are the gangsters? Preachers? We need you. Please."
11. Nicki Minaj
"Rest In Peace #SandraBland"
12. Talib Kweli
"We the people ask @LorettaLynch to investigate #SandraBland #KimberleeRandleKing RETWEET "
Signs. Signs. Signs all around us. The Message is Here. #SandraBland
14. Missy Elliot
"When I look at the #SandraBland traffic video it brings so many emotions😳😢😡😡😤!"
15. Jessie J
"God bless your soul Sandra | #sandrabland | Change needs to come |Justice needs to be served | Heart… https://instagram.com/p/5fV79mQ0aw/ "
16. Jackee Harry
"It's time y'all, it's time.." #SandraBland #BlackLivesMatter
"In memory of #SandraBland these things don't make no kinda sense "
18. Holly Robinson Peete
I really don't look forward to having ANOTHER difficult conversation w my kids tonight...but here we go again😧💔 #SandraBland #SayHerName 😢
19. Jeffrey White
Sadly, doesn't matter by whose hand she died. Unjustified arrested set the outcome in motion. The state murdered her. #JusticeForSandraBland
Sandra could have been your mother, sister, aunt, friend or if she wasn't killed the community outreach advisor A&M. #SandraBland
21. Joan Smalls
"My heart is broken. Sending my deepest condolence to her family and friends. May you find Strength, Peace and Justice. When will this stop? #EqualityForAll #RIP #Why #SayHerName
22. Gladys Knight
Sandra Bland.... #SayHerName #SandraBland
23. Cara Delevigne
Things need to change NOW #SANDRABLAND #Justice #Equality
24. Meek Mill
"Rip to that young lady that lost her life about a traffic stop! 🙏 ima make sure I pray for her and her family! 🙏😄😄😄"