Please, please, please say it's so...
That was my initial reaction today when I saw news stories about a study presented at a breast cancer conference sponsored by a number of leading organizations with a professional interest in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
The headlines were pretty clear, to the effect that the study showed the value of screening mammography in women between the ages of 40-49. The accompanying stories suggested that this research essentially repudiated the recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force initially published in November 2009.
You may remember that event, since it created a huge amount of media and public interest when the Task Force suggested that screening mammograms to find breast cancer early should not be done routinely in women between the ages of 40 and 49. This was a change from its prior recommendation, and was in conflict with the opinions of the American Cancer Society and other organizations which conitinued to endorse routine breast cancer screening in this age group.
There has been a lot of water under the dam since then, and there have been additional scientific studies reported about the value of screening mammograms, some of which support breast cancer screening and others which do not.
Enter the reports this week that a study from Michigan suggests that screening mammograms and breast self-examination in women between the ages of 40 and 49 results in earlier diagnosis and less disfiguring treatment.
When I read the headlines and the news reports, I quickly came to the conclusion that there was a possible disconnect between what the reporters concluded from the study and what I thought was scientifically valid. Mind you, I read these things with my own bias/conflict of interest: I have been a supporter of mammograms for women between the ages of 40-49, and believe they save lives in this age group. But my problem here is whether this particular research actually supports that position, as the press reports suggested.
Guess what? I don't think it does. More...