Mammograms; new information revealed by the NY Times has us wondering if these x rays are helpful or harmful or both.

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mammogram Mammograms; new information revealed by the NY Times has us wondering if these x rays are helpful or harmful or both. For years, women dutifully waited for their yearly mammogram, a broadly accepted ritual. Mammograms were believed to save lives until a few years ago when new studies began to raise doubt, along with the effectiveness of the methods of self exam women had been taught to perform on themselves. Are women really the ticking time bombs for breast cancer our society has made them out to be, or are the tests themselves part of the problem of the breast cancer epidemic due to ionizing radiation? For women, who tend to be generally more health aware than their male counterparts, losing the tests that supposedly helped them live longer leaves them with little than concerns in the back of their minds as to weather they may one day have breast cancer themselves. This is especially tough after years of indoctrination with a test that was never questioned as to whether it was an effective way to screen for this disease. Read these two articles and points of view. What do you think?

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman's health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

The study, published Tuesday in The British Medical Journal, is one of the few rigorous evaluations of mammograms conducted in the modern era of more effective breast cancer treatments. It randomly assigned Canadian women to have regular mammograms and breast exams by trained nurses or to have breast exams alone.

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For women who dutifully keep their mammogram appointments year after year, the latest results from a long-term trial in Canada, which found no difference in death rates from breast cancer among women who had regular mammograms and those who did not, are bound to sow confusion, perhaps even anger.

For decades now, the annual mammogram has been promoted vociferously and continuously as an essential way to protect oneself from breast cancer. Many women feel they are being irresponsible if they do not get a regular scan, said Dr. Lisa Schwartz, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

"For so long, we have been trying to convince people that you're irresponsible or not taking care of yourself if you don't do this," Dr. Schwartz said. "People were hit over the head with that message."

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