November 18, 2009

THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY DOESN'T MAKE MONEY OFF TELLING YOU YOU'RE HEALTHY:

Behind the Mammogram Controversy (Ruth Conniff, November 18, 2009, The Progressive)

[O]verscreening and overtreatment are as much of a plague in the U.S. medical system as cost-cutting measures. And looking at breast cancer screening rationally, as the federal panel has done, makes a lot of sense.

Just because it gives people a feeling of psychological empowerment to do something does not mean promoting the hell out of dubiously effective screening is the right thing to do.

Aside from an irrational avoidance reflex, it turns out there are good reasons women might not be inclined to get mammograms.

"Routine screening mammograms are the major goal of 'awareness,'" Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in Harper's back in 2000. Yet the effect of all this early screening is "a vanishingly small impact on breast cancer mortality," Ehrenriech wrote. For every cancer detected, two to four biopsies turn out negative, putting a lot of women through a lot of needless stress. Despite what seems like widespread consensus that you'd have to be crazy not to get an annual mammogram starting at age 40, Ehrenreich quoted eminent doctors including David Plotkin, director of the Memorial Cancer Research Center of Southern California, and Alan Spievack of Harvard Medical School--saying the benefits of early screening were dubious if not, as Spievack and the British surgeon Dr. Michael Baum put it, "one of the greatest deceptions perpetrated on the women of the Western World."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2009 5:33 PM
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