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Latest Mammogram Study Stirs Debate

Latest Mammogram Study Stirs Debate

February 18, 2014 — An editorial and opinion pieces in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Slate responded to a recent study that found that breast cancer death rates were the same among women who underwent regular mammograms and those who did not. Summaries appear below.

~ Chicago Tribune: "This latest study won't quiet the mammogram controversy," nor will it stop many women from getting routine mammograms, a Tribune editorial argues, adding, "Billions of dollars are wasted every year by Americans for unnecessary scans, biopsies and tests." The editorial concludes that women should "follow one simple guideline: The next time your doctor recommends a routine mammogram, ask her why" (Chicago Tribune, 2/16).

~ Marie Myung-Ok Lee, New York Times: Lee, who is nearly 50 and has never had a mammogram, writes that the study "vindicated" that decision. Lee, an author who teaches writing at Columbia University, argues that women "rarely consider that the test itself might make us sick -- perhaps through repeated exposure to radiation -- or that there are health advantages for the nontester like me, who gains time, sheds stress and potentially dodges the harm of a false positive or unnecessary treatment" (Lee, New York Times, 2/14).

~ Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times' "Well": "[B]uried in the [news of the study] was a nugget of hope: The women who did not receive regular mammograms were instead monitored with physical breast exams that proved effective," Rabin writes. She adds that this "low-tech" approach "is a very different message from what women have been hearing," noting, "Given the debate over mammography, you would think that scientists would be taking a harder look at alternatives" (Rabin, "Well," New York Times, 2/17).

~ Christie Aschwanden, Slate's "Medical Examiner": Aschwanden writes that the study "adds another large mass of evidence to an already rather large pile suggesting that most of what mammography has done is turn healthy people into sick but grateful cancer survivors." She argues, "The glossy magazine stories, awareness brochures, and mammography proponents like the American College of Radiology have set their sights on the wrong goal," adding, "We should be aiming to save lives, not create as many cancer patients as we possibly can" (Aschwanden, "Medical Examiner," Slate, 2/14).