Expensive, useless breast cancer screenings pushed on older women

Sunday, January 13, 2013 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: breast cancer, screenings, older women

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(NaturalNews) Medicare spends more than a billion dollars every year on a variety of breast cancer screenings, especially mammography. There must be a good medical reason for these tests, right? Not according to researchers at Yale School of Medicine. In a study just published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, the scientists say there is no evidence spending this huge amount of money on breast screening benefits older women at all.

The research team, headed by Cary Gross, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center at Yale, assessed overall national costs, as well as variation in costs across geographic regions, of breast screenings in older women, associated work-ups and treatment of any findings. In all, the group studied over 137,000 women on Medicare who had not been diagnosed with breast cancer in prior years. The women were followed for two years so the researchers could learn how they were screened, whether they were diagnosed with breast cancer, and how much the screening and associated treatments cost.

Spending more does not increase cancer detection

"Although screening costs varied more than two-fold across geographic regions, there was no evidence that higher expenditures (due to the use of newer, more expensive screening technologies) in the higher-cost areas were benefiting women living in the high-cost regions," Gross, who is a member of Yale Cancer Center, said in a media statement. "Specifically, there was no relation between screening expenditures and the detection of advanced cancers."

Amazingly, despite the fact guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force state there's no good evidence that breast cancer screenings have any benefit for women who are age 75 and older, the new research revealed that over $400 million is being spent every year screening Medicare beneficiaries in this very age group.

"In some instances, breast cancer screening can save lives. But no woman wants to undergo testing if it is likely to cause more harm than good, and no health system -- particularly ours -- can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on screening programs without evidence to support them," Gross concluded in the media statement.

As NaturalNews has previously reported, University of California at San Francisco researchers have also sounded the alarm that unneeded, expensive mammograms are being pushed on elderly women -- specifically those who are incapacitated from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia and likely terminally ill, especially if the women have savings or assets of $100,000 or more. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, was based on information from Medicare claims.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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