Controversy over annual mammograms for women under 50
Radiologists who make their living interpreting mammograms have authored three small recent studies contradicting U.S. Guidelines that suggest women under fifty with on risk factors do not benefit from annual mammograms. Breast cancer remains the second-leading killer of American women (after lung cancer) and it is estimated that breast cancer caused 40,000 deaths last year. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended in 2009 that women under fifty not undergo annual mammograms because the risks and complications of "false positives" out-weighed the advantage of a rare early detection. The studies published by radiologists this year tend to confirm the fact that mammograms do identify cancers at an earlier, smaller stage and enhance survival. Donna Plecha of University Hospitals Medical Center in Cleveland summarized the conclusion she drew from the studies: women int their 40s who are diagnosed with breast cancer as a result of annual mammograms have a better prognosis and endure less toxic treatment plans.
Modern researchers are attempting to elucidate the risks and advantages of early detection in breast and prostate cancer, in particular, as they have found that many patients must endure aggressive treatment of relatively benign cancers in order to catch and successfully treat a single aggressive cancer.