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Local Doctors Question Findings in Canadian Research Study Doubting Mammograms-Meagan O'Halloran

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Doctors are cautiously reacting to a controversial new study claiming mammograms are not effective at saving lives. Canadian researchers say the breast cancer death rate is the same, whether women have a mammogram or not.

Not only is Brenda Farmer a nurse who helps women battling breast cancer but she is a breast cancer survivor herself.

"They found an early classification on my mammogram. It was something that could not be felt in a self-breast exam or by a clinician" said Farmer. Farmer believes detecting cancer early, with the help of a mammogram, may have saved her life.

But according to the British Medical Journal the life-and-death statistics aren't giving mammogram testing much credit. Those researchers claim whether women have a mammogram or not-- the breast cancer death rate is the same. 

Farmer still thinks  early detection saves lives.

"Research is important. The research that's been done here in the U.S. is still recommending that all women starting at the age of 40 get a routine mammogram".

At TriStar Summit Medical Center, doctors follow American Cancer Society guidelines. They use mammograms as a tool to detect breast cancer and help catch it early. There's a problem though; doctors say all lumps, tumors and cancers that show up on an x-ray may not be deadly. It leads to over-diagnosis and over-treatment..

Dr. John King is a radiologist at TriStar Summit and sees that kind of thing on a regular basis. "At this point we treat them all as if they're life threatening".

The British Medical Journal claims the better safe-than-sorry approach may not actually be safer but Dr. King says it's too soon to tell if this is true.

"There have been articles out of Canada before and they've been flawed. The design is flawed and the premise is flawed" said Dr. King.

King is going by the guidelines established by the American Cancer Society. According to an article in the New York Times, Dr. Richard Wender, chief of cancer control for the American Cancer Society is referencing some data and statistics that dispute this  new Canadian research study. Wender said research gathered from clinical trials of mammography showed to reduce the breast cancer death rate by 15% for women in their 40's and by at least  20% for older women.

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