Early Breast Cancer Detection May Not Help

NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A study of women in Norway suggests better treatment, not yearly mammograms, may account for a 10 percent cut in the breast cancer death rate, researchers said.

Researchers tracked 40,075 women in Norway who had received a diagnosis of breast cancer from 1986 to 2005. The women were examined before and after 1996, when the country provided mammograms for women ages 50-69 along with special breast cancer team to treat all women with breast cancer, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The treatment teams are similar to those at many U.S. medical centers that involve surgeons, pathologists, oncologists, radiologists and nurses to coordinate breast cancer care.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found factors including modern treatment reduced the breast cancer death rate by 10 percent, but the effect of mammograms alone could be as low as 2 percent or maybe zero.

The 10 percent reduction would mean if 1,000 50-year-old women received mammograms for 10 years, 996 women rather than 995.6 would not die from breast cancer — an amount so small it could result from chance, the researchers said.

The study said screening 2,500 50-year-old women would identify 1,000 women with at least one suspicious mammogram result, 500 would have biopsies and five to 15 of the women would be treated for cancer that, if left alone, would have grown so slowly as to be undetectable.

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