Over 240,000 women are projected to receive a breast cancer diagnosis in the United States this year, and many of them will likely commence treatment promptly. However, recent research suggests that this approach might not always be the best course of action.
A new study reveals that breast cancer is frequently overdiagnosed in women aged 70 to 85, leading to unnecessary distress and aggressive treatments like surgery and chemotherapy that do not enhance their quality of life.
Dr. Ilana Richman, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, explained, “Overdiagnosis occurs when we detect breast cancers during screenings that would never have caused symptoms. This can happen when the cancers grow very slowly or if the person’s life expectancy is short.”
Reassessing Screening Strategies for Older Patients
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, this research underscores the importance of reevaluating screening methods and having well-informed conversations with patients.
While mammography is a widely used method for screening breast cancer, the study identifies a research gap when it comes to older women. Individuals aged 74 and above have often been excluded from large randomized screening trials, leaving uncertainties about the complete range of screening advantages and potential downsides.
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