Breast Cancer Screenings: What We Still Don’t Know (The New York Times)


In a New York Times opinion piece, Dartmouth’s H. Gilbert Welch discusses the need for randomized trials of breast cancer screenings to “finally learn what level of screening minimizes false alarms and overdiagnosis while saving the most lives.”

Welch, a professor of medicine at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice (TDI) and at the Geisel School of Medicine, and Honor Passow of TDI are authors of a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, explains Welch, he and his colleague “attempt to provide that data for women making the choice about screening mammography.”

Welch writes, “Among a thousand 50-year-old American women screened annually for a decade, 3.2 to 0.3 will avoid a breast cancer death, 490 to 670 will have at least one false alarm and 3 to 14 will be overdiagnosed and treated needlessly. That may help some women choose whether to be screened or not. But it’s still not very precise, and it doesn’t answer the fundamental question: Now that treatment is so much better, how much benefit does screening actually provide? What we need is a clinical trial in the current treatment era.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 12/29/13 by The New York Times.

Welch was also featured in an article about mammograms, published 12/30/13 by Reuters.

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