Physician Urges Women Over 40 to Continue Screenings

March 2014:  Hainesport, NJ

News Media Reports Raising "Questions about the Importance of Mammograms" are Based on Flawed Study, Says Local Breast Imaging Expert.

A local physician and breast imaging expert is urging area women not to overreact to a recent news media reports on a published analysis of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study.

According to ABC News, the study, published last month in the British Medical Journal (www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g366), purportedly "raises questions" about the effectiveness of annual mammograms in reducing deaths from breast cancer.

"Each woman needs to make an educated decision for herself, in consultation with her referring physician and breast imaging radiologist," said Sarah Palestrant, M.D., of Larchmont Medical Imaging, a radiology practice serving patients at four locations in Southern New Jersey. "I want women to keep in mind that this is one study. The largest and the longest running breast cancer screening studies in history have shown the life-saving benefits of screening mammograms, with support by every major American medical organization."

Dr. Palestrant said the flaws in the study included:
• Technical shortcomings that diminished doctors' ability to read the mammogram images clearly
• Use of second-hand mammography machines that were not state-of-the-art
• A 30 percent rate of accuracy in detecting cancer on mammograms while many other studies demonstrate a detection rate of 60 percent

"Unfortunately, this study is reporting old data from a trial that had already been discredited when the data was initially released," Dr. Palestrant said. "The consequences could be potentially tragic for a patient who, even though her doctor has recommended a screening mammogram, decides that she doesn't need one after seeing the media reports. Annual mammograms starting at age 40 are a woman's best defense against breast cancer, based on a wide body of evidence. Now there are 30 percent fewer deaths each year from breast cancer as a direct result of screening mammography."