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Could earlier mammograms cause more breast cancer misdiagnoses?

Lately, it seems like researchers have released new and different recommendations for the timing and frequency of mammograms nearly every day. As such, many New Jersey women (as well as their doctors) are understandably confused on how best to approach their medical treatment.

But now, a new report has been released that seems to state the obvious: women should take a personalized approach when deciding how and when to test for breast cancer, taking into account their family history and other risk factors for the disease.

In the report, researchers analyzed more than 60 previous studies on the timing and frequency of mammography, ultimately concluding that women who have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer should begin undergoing regular mammograms at age 40. This increased risk would occur in cases in which the woman's mother had breast cancer. Other women with an elevated risk, such as a more distant relative with the disease, should also consider an earlier start to regular mammograms.

However, there is some concern that earlier and more frequent mammograms could increase the risk of a breast cancer misdiagnosis and the receipt of unnecessary treatment. This is why, according to Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's Chief Medical Officer, doctors and patients should make screening decisions based on the woman's individual breast cancer risk. This, he says, will "save more lives than our current practice."

"Risk-based screening can refocus efforts onto the women who are most likely to benefit from screening," he said, adding that "the preferences of individual women, recognizing the potential for harm and benefit, should be respected."

If your wife, mother or other loved one has suffered as a result of an incorrect breast cancer diagnosis, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: Reuters, "Mammograms may be worth risks for some in their 40s," May 1, 2012

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