Lehigh Valley

New study re-ignites debate over routine mammograms

VIDEO: New study re-ignites debate...

A new Danish study suggests some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will be subjected to treatments they didn't need.

The study appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

It says one in three breast cancer patients diagnosed by a mammogram is treated unnecessarily with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for slow-growing tumors that are essentially harmless.

Lori Alfonse, a breast surgical oncologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network, says every case is different. “If we are able to find cancers earlier when they are smaller and more treatable, why would we not want to cure those cancers?” she says. “But, on the other hand, there are some patients that deserve or even desire a more conservative treatment.”

And then there's the issue of DCIS, which stands for ductal carcinoma in situ. It’s non-invasive, stage 0 breast cancer.

“It's probably the most highly debated topic in breast disease,” Alfonse explains.

40 percent of DCIS cases will not progress to a life-threatening cancer, but knowing which 40 percent, isn't an exact science.

“I don't have an on and off switch to know if that in situ disease has turned invasive,” says Alfonse.

While the study has renewed debate over the value of routine mammograms, experts stress that a patient's best option in determining care continues to be seeking out education about her specific case, and maintaining an open dialogue with her doctor.

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