Drs. Gilbert Welch and Lisa Schwartz of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice talk to PBS News Hour, CNN, The New York Times and the Boston Globe about the new Canadian mammogram study published in the British Medical Journal.
For decades now, the annual mammogram has been promoted vociferously and continuously as an essential way to protect oneself from breast cancer. Many women feel they are being irresponsible if they do not get a regular scan, said Dr. Schwartz.
“For so long, we have been trying to convince people that you’re irresponsible or not taking care of yourself if you don’t do this,” Dr. Schwartz said. “People were hit over the head with that message.”
In light of the accumulating data that the benefits of regular mammography may be negligible for women, and that the practice has led to false positives and overtreatment, “it’s important for women to realize there is a genuine decision to be made here,” Dr. Schwartz said.
"This isn’t a public health imperative, it’s a choice,” said cancer screening researcher Dr. Welch, “and it’s a close call.”
Mammography’s benefits have long been debated, but no nations except Switzerland have suggested the screening be halted.
Even experts like Dr. Welch, who have questioned mammography’s benefits, were surprised by Switzerland’s steps to reconsider its widespread use.
“Wow, times they are a-changin’,” Dr. Welch said.