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Harvard Study Raises Questions About Mammograms

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Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV Medical Reporter Dr. Mallika Marshall
Dr. Mallika Marshall is WBZ-TV News’ Medical Reporter and contributes...
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CBS Boston (con't)

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BOSTON (CBS) –A recent study out of Harvard suggests that deciding when and how often to have a mammogram is not a black or white issue.

Researchers looked at 50 years worth of data on the effectiveness of mammograms and concluded that the benefits of screening are often overstated and that the harms are often downplayed.

They found mammograms decreased the risk of dying from breast cancer by only about 19-percent.

The survival benefit was even less for women in their 40’s, but more for women in their 60’s, who are much more likely to get breast cancer.

That said, among women in their 40’s and 50’s who get mammograms every year for 10 years, more than half of them will receive a false positive result.

Mammograms involve small concentrated doses of radiation and though there’s no evidence that radiation from mammograms increases the risk of secondary cancers in most women, women who have BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes may be at increased risk.

WBZ’s Dr. Mallika Marshall says the new research is confusing for doctors and she still believes women in their 50’s and 60’s should be regularly screened with mammograms. But for younger women, it’s not so clear-cut. All women should talk to their doctors about the best course of action.

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