publication date: Apr. 24, 2015

Mandl: Costs of Harm from Mammography Must Be Balanced Against Benefits


The U.S. spends $4 billion on unnecessary mammograms each year, according to a study 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 overdiagnosis at 22 percent.

“We’re hoping that the stunning financial cost of this problem will help cast into greater belief the human cost—$4 billion tells you that it’s a very large problem, that it’s really happening at a massive scale,” said Mandl, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Boston Children’s Hospital Chair in Biomedical Informatics and Population. His co-author, Ong, is a research fellow at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Mandl spoke with Matthew Ong, a reporter with The Cancer Letter.


Matthew Ong: Why did you conduct this study, and what did you find?

Kenneth Mandl: Some studies suggest that there is no difference in mortality between women screened and women not screened. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised against routine screening … Continue reading 41-16 Mandl: Costs of Harm from Mammography Must Be Balanced Against Benefits

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