The Cancer Screening Backlash Through History

For an excellent analysis on why there is such a vehement backlash against the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's recommendations to wait until 50 for routine mammograms, read Robert Aronowitz's op-ed in the New York Times today.

In the piece, Addicted to Mammograms, Aronowitz (an internist) notes that the screening controversy is nothing new. "It’s the same debate that’s gone on in medicine since 1971, when the very first large-scale, randomized trial of screening mammography found that it saved the lives only of women aged 50 or older. Despite the evidence, doctors continued to screen women in their 40s." He adds:

You need to screen 1,900 women in their 40s for 10 years in order to prevent one death from breast cancer, and in the process you will have generated more than 1,000 false-positive screens and all the overtreatment they entail. This doesn’t make sense

Still, he says, the reason so many women and doctors rejected the findings back in the 70s — and now — is that to accept them would be akin to "giving up the one means they had to exercise some control over cancer."

This program aired on November 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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