Study: More women getting unnecessary breast cancer treatments

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Most women know that at a certain age they need to start getting mammograms. But a new report says more women are getting unnecessary treatment than are being saved.

Tiffany Reed loves spending time with her young granddaughter. But just eight years ago she wasn’t sure she’d live to see the day.

“I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer which was very, very aggressive,” Reed said.

Reed was only 36-years-old when her doctor recommended a mammogram.

“I actually wasn’t going to go because I thought I was too young to get breast cancer,” she said.

After additional tests, she got the call no one wants to get.

“They said, ‘We have good news, and we have bad news. We’ll give you the bad news first; the bad news is that you have breast cancer. The good news is this mammogram saved your life’.”

But a new review out of Britain says for every woman like Reed who is saved, about three other women are over-diagnosed, being treated for breast cancers which may never kill them.

“The problem that we face with a study like this is determining which patients have cancers that could potentially take their lives, and which don’t,” said Dr. Colleen Murphy, a breast surgical oncologist at Porter Adventist Hospital. “And we don’t have a way to determine that information as of yet.”

So every cancer is treated as if it could take the patient’s life. Murphy believes over-treating is better than not treating at all, and mammograms are key.

“Screening mammography actually does save lives,” she said. “There’s a 20 percent risk reduction in dying from breast cancer if you’re undergoing screening mammography than if you’re not.”

That’s something Tiffany Reed knows firsthand.

“Early detection saves lives. I know that for sure,” she said.

The American Cancer Society recommends women start getting yearly mammograms at age 40, or earlier if they have a history of breast cancer.