Xray of a person's torso

How the Affordable Care Act Wastes Billions and Harms Tens of Thousands of Women Each Year

Conventional wisdom states cancer screening is the best "prevention," as catching cancer early increases your chances of successful treatment. However, studies have repeatedly negated the idea that mammograms lower death rates, noting more women are harmed in the process than are actually saved.

January 25, 2017 | Source: Mercola.com | by Dr. Joseph Mercola

On January 10, 2017, the Huffington Post reported the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as "Obamacare," has helped many poor women get mammograms, as it eliminates out-of-pocket costs for certain cancer screening procedures.1

Among female Medicare patients over the age of 70 who were due for a mammogram, screening rates increased by 2 percent after the implementation of the ACA, from 5 to 7 percent each month.

Screening rates also rose among other age groups, and the rate differences between the wealthiest and the poorest shrunk after the ACA went into effect. According to the featured article, if the ACA were to be repealed, fewer women would get screened for breast cancer. The question is, would that actually be a bad thing?

Conventional wisdom states cancer screening is the best "prevention," as catching cancer early increases your chances of successful treatment. However, studies have repeatedly negated the idea that mammograms lower death rates, noting more women are harmed in the process than are actually saved.

Long-Term Study Questions Value and Effectiveness of Mammograms

Ironically, the very next day, on January 11, a 17-year-long study2,3,4,5,6 again concluded that mammograms have no impact on advanced breast cancer incidence, and lead to significant overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment of harmless tumors. As reported by The New York Times:7

"In Denmark, screening was implemented in different regions at different times, so researchers there were able to compare groups of women who were screened with those who were not.

If screening were effective, a reduction in the incidence of advanced tumors would be expected — tumors would be caught and treated when small. Instead, the researchers found no difference in incidence between screened and unscreened groups.

But in screened groups, they found substantial overdiagnosis — that is, detection of tumors that would not become cancers needing treatment."

Overall, one-fifth to one-third of all breast cancer tumors detected by mammograms were overdiagnosed, leading to biopsies, surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy — all of which can cause serious harm.

Meanwhile, the screening had no impact on reducing the rate of advanced breast cancer and breast cancer mortality, which are key selling points of cancer screening.

Conventional thinking tells you that regular screenings will allow you to catch the tumor well before it reaches an advanced stage, thereby saving your life through early detection, but that's just not happening.

Mammograms Do More Harm Than Good

According to lead author Dr. Karsten Juhl Jorgensen, deputy director of the Nordic Cochrane Center:

"Some types of screening are a good idea … But breast cancer has a biology that doesn't lend itself to screening.

Healthy women get a breast cancer diagnosis, and this has serious psychological consequences and well-known physical harms from unnecessary treatment. We're really doing more harm than good."

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS), wrote an editorial8,9 for the study, noting that "researchers increasingly recognize that not all breast cancers pose the same risk, even if they look the same under a microscope."

"There's a tendency in the United States to think that screening is better than it actually is," he writes, adding that "Assuming that all small breast lesions have the potential to turn deadly is akin to 'racial profiling.'"

As Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), told Newsweek; getting treated for a harmless tumor can jeopardize your health, but women are rarely informed of this other side of the equation.

"Radiation can damage the heart or even cause new cancers," Newsweek writes.10 "Visco notes that breast cancer activist Carolina Hinestrosa, a vice president at the coalition, died at age 50 from soft-tissue sarcoma, a tumor caused by radiation used to treat an early breast cancer.

Women should understand these risks, Visco said. Instead, women often hear only about mammograms' benefits. 'Women have been inundated with the early-detection message for decades,' she said."