publication date: Apr. 24, 2015

Mammography: When, Really, is the Right Time? And at What Cost?

 

As a firestorm ignites around the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force draft recommendation on mammography, researchers and advocates are grappling with the questions at the heart of the controversy:

• Should women start screening for breast cancer at age 40 or 50?

• What is the prevalence of false-positives and overdiagnosis in these age groups?

• What are the costs of harm?

The USPSTF draft recommendation, published April 20, comes on the heels of a controversial study which estimates that the U.S. spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary mammograms for women between the ages of 40 to 59.

The study was published in the April issue of Health Affairs. Titled “National Expenditure for False-Positive Mammograms and Breast Cancer Overdiagnoses Estimated at $4 Billion a Year,” the study, by Kenneth Mandl and Mei-Sing Ong, uses expenditure data from a major U.S. health care insurer for 702,154 women in 2011 to 2013.

Of the $4 billion, $2.8 billion is attributed to false-positive mammograms, and $1.2 billion to breast cancer overdiagnosis. The study measures the rate of false positives at 11 percent and estimates overdiagnosis at 22 percent.

The study also showed that women in their 40s were 24 percent more likely to have a false positive than women in their 50s.

“The … Continue reading 41-16 Mammography: When, Really, is the Right Time? And at What Cost?

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