New Study Confirms: Mammograms Save More Lives Than Over-Diagnose

Nurse Assisting Patient Undergoing Mammogram

One of the best ways for women over 40 to detect breast cancer is an annual mammogram. Photo: iStockphoto

We talk a lot about mammograms in our breast health workshops we give at schools, businesses, and events, so we were thrilled to hear this latest piece of research released last week.

A comprehensive international study confirmed that, based on lives saved, the benefits of mammograms outweigh the drawbacks of over-diagnosis.

The findings were pulled from breast cancer screening and diagnosis data from millions of European women across 19 countries. The review found that for every 1,000 women screened, mammograms led to over-diagnosis in only 4 cases, but saved an average  of 7-9 lives—double the amount of women over-diagnosed. “”Over-diagnosis” is defined as a diagnosis of cancer in which symptoms would not have developed during the woman’s life.

The study also showed that of 1,000 women screened:

  • 170 received non-invasive follow up tests confirming there was no cancer (a “negative result”)
  • 30 received invasive follow up tests (such as biopsies) before concluding that there was no cancer (a “false positive”)

So, yes, while getting a false positive, coming back for a second test, or even getting an overdiagnosis is never fun, mammograms definitely save lives. If you’re over 40 and you haven’t had a mammogram yet this year, schedule one now!