Breast cancer survivors, radiologist comment on controversial mammogram study

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There’s a new study that suggests mammograms may lead to over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.

The study, published this week in The Annals of Internal Medicine, is being talked about by medical researchers and breast cancer survivors globally.

Dr. Lauren Golding, a breast image radiologist, weighed in on the study.

“Over-diagnosis is a concept, it's the idea that we find health information that doesn't really benefit people and it may actually cause harm if it leads to unnecessary treatment,” Golding said.

For example, mammograms may detect a tumor that would never become malignant, but doctors may still treat it with surgery as a precaution.

Golding says while over-diagnosis can happen, it’s a low percentage.

As a breast imager with Triad Radiology Associates, Golding is housed inside the Novant Health Breast Center in Winston-Salem. She interprets breast mammograms and says several medical studies have proven the breast cancer screening is a good tool for early detection.

“There’s really good scientific evidence that shows that getting a mammogram every year, beginning at age 40, saves the most lives and finds cancers the earliest,” Golding said. “The average woman, we don’t want her to get the wrong impression that mammography is not important, that breast cancer isn’t a big deal. We certainly wouldn’t want people to not choose to be screened and not choose to be treated for breast cancer based on this data.”

Breast cancer survivors Barbara Ryan, Patricia Flowers and Laura Beaty believe in the importance of mammograms. They are all Susan G. Komen volunteers and hope people don’t steer away from mammograms because of this study.

“It scares me because I think people will hear this in the media and think, 'Well I don't really need to do that this year,' or say, 'I can just push that off and do it every two years because the study says it's over-diagnosis,'” Beaty said.

“At the end of the day, better safe than sorry,” Flowers said. “I know it's a cliché, but it's the truth, you know, when you're dealing with your life.”

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