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Study from Norway suggests minimal benefit in mammograms

Norway began following women diagnosed with breast cancer, age 50 to 69, a number of years ago in conjunction with a program that provided state-of-the-art care upon diagnosis.  This week the involved researchers published findings in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggest that most of today's improvement in breast cancer survival results from improved treatment modalities rather than from early detection.  The death rate from breast cancer is ten percent better today than it was at the outset of the study in 1996.  In short, a comparison of results suggested that 8 percent of the improvement is attributable to treatment improvements, while only 2 percent is related to early detection by mammograms.  Investigators suggested that whether a woman should continue to undergo mammogram screening was more a matter of individual choice than a matter of medical necessity, when one considers the various costs of treating non-fatal cancer and the long odds of saving a life by early detection that would not be saved by improved treatment.

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