The growing use of routine mammograms over the past 30 years has done little to lower the death rate from breast cancer but has sharply increased the number of women who are wrongly diagnosed with the disease, a new study reported.
The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is sure to intensify the already fierce debate over how often women should get mammograms, a controversy that has embroiled policymakers, politicians and physicians — not to mention their female patients.
The researchers didn’t make recommendations about how frequently women should get mammograms, but their findings put them squarely in the camp of those who are increasingly cautious, if not downright skeptical, about the screening test.
The study estimated that over the past 30 years, a total of 1.3 million women have been misdiagnosed with the disease. In other words, while their mammograms revealed tumors considered potentially cancerous at the time, the women, if left untreated, never would have developed cancer.