Most American women unaware of overdiagnosis of breast cancer

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- New research by the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, shows most women are not aware of the potential of overdiagnosis and overtreatment for breast cancer.

Overdiagnosis is the detection of cancers that grow so slowly they would never have caused any health problems during a person's lifetime. Overtreatment is the unnecessary treatment, such as surgery or medications, that cause side effects with minimal health benefits.

The study, published in the October edition of Medical Care, of 429 U.S. women age 35 to 55 showed that just 16.5 percent were aware of the potential risk of overdiagnosis from breast cancer screenings and 18 percent were aware of the potential for overtreatment.

Women under the age of 40 were even less likely to be aware of the risk of overdiagnosis.

"Although it is difficult to pinpoint just how common cancer overdiagnosis is... there is growing expert consensus that the phenomenon is real and may require a re-evaluation of aggressive screening strategies," researchers wrote in the study.

"Fewer than 1 in 4 agreed with and found statements about overdiagnosis and overtreatment to be believable, and even fewer evaluated them as strong arguments to consider in their own mammography decision making,"

Researchers found that women who had recently had a mammogram were "particularly unconvinced" about overdiagnosis and overtreatment risks.
Amy Wallace

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