SABATTUS, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The debate over routine mammograms has kicked up a notch after a recent study questioned the value of annual screening. The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that a third of all tumors discovered in routine screenings are unlikely to result in illness and hundreds of thousand of women are being 'overdiagnosed' for breast cancer.
Like most small business owners, Nancy Merrill has a busy life. She runs a photography business out of her home and is a mom to twin teenage boys. Five years ago, after a checkup, she didn't have time to make an appointment for her routine mammogram, but the receptionist persisted that she get one.
That routine screening led to the discovery of stage one breast cancer in her left breast.
Merrill believes early detection saved her life. But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine questions the benefits of yearly mammogram.
The study analyzed 30 years of data on breast cancer cases. Researchers found a dramatic increase -- a doubling - in the rate of early-stage cancer, but the advanced breast cancer rates haven't gone down at all.
'It is a phenomena of what happens when you start doing any type of screening, you are finding more cancer, earlier and smaller,' said Dr. Tracey Weisberg, an Oncologist at Maine Medical Center's Breast Care Center.
The study also suggests that nearly one of out every three women diagnosed with breast cancer has a tumor that wouldn't cause any illness if left untreated. Dr. Weisberg says there isn't a test to determine in advance if a tumors detected on a mammogram will be harmless or deadly, so they have to treat them all.
If you would like more information on recommendations for routine screenings you can go to www.cancer.org/breastcancer if you would like to view the study written by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch and Dr. Archie Bleyer, you can go to www.nejm.org/