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Mammograms:

About the author: 

In the week that pop star Kylie Minogue announced that she has breast cancer, a new study from her homeland Australia remains dubious that earlier mammogram testing is the solution

In the week that pop star Kylie Minogue announced that she has breast cancer, a new study from her homeland Australia remains dubious that earlier mammogram testing is the solution.
The general consensus is that mammogram screening is best for women aged between 50 and 69 years, but there's a growing group that believes the age should be lowered to include women aged below 40. Kylie, for example, will be 38 on 28 May.
But such a move may put an unbearable strain on the world's health services, and for no good reason. Unfortunately the problem lies with the test itself. It's notoriously unreliable, and it throws up false positives around 20% of the time - which means that it detects a problem that isn't really there. But once the test has detected a possible growth, the patient is on a medical treadmill that will involve biopsy and further screening.
Statistics from Australia support the profile. For every 1000 women screened over 10 years, up to 251 get an abnormal result. Of these 64 undergo at least one biopsy - and yet just 26 actually have invasive cancer. Ah, I can hear you say, those 26 wouldn't have been detected without the screening. Not quite. For every 1000 women who have twice-yearly screening, up to 33 breast cancers are detected and, by comparison, for every 1000 women who decline screening, 20 cancers are detected.
In other words, they're doing what Kylie did - they regularly inspect their own breasts, and with some success.


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