Overuse of Medical Imaging – Is it Too Much?

By: Bel Marra Health | Breast | Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 01:41 AM

cancer riskBreast cancer is the most common type of malignancy affecting women around the world. Each year, thousands of women are positively diagnosed with breast cancer, thus requiring them to undergo various types of treatment to prevent further progression of the tumor. Breast cancer development has also been considered as a preventable condition and thus numerous efforts from both health and non-government agencies have focused on its early detection to lower cancer risk.

Decreasing Breast Cancer Risk

To decrease breast cancer risk, women are encouraged to undergo regular medical examinations that would monitor changes in their body, including assessing hormone levels and palpation of the breast. At the same time, women are also educated on the importance of regular self-examination of the breast, and once a lump is noticed, this should be reported to the physician for further examination.

One of the routine methods in screening for breast cancer is mammography, or the radiological imaging of the breast. This technique is generally performed in order to diagnose breast cancer, especially after positively reporting a lump after self-examination. The use of mammography has actually lowered cancer risk levels among women because this detects cancer development at its early stages, allowing physicians to immediately design treatment regiments to prevent the breast cancer to further proceed to more severe stages.

Detection of Breast Cancer

Based on the importance of mammography in the detection of breast cancer, millions of women are now screened for any signs of cancer development each year. Starting at the age of 40, women are encouraged to undergo mammography to lower their breast cancer risk. Mammography may be quite painful, especially when pressure is placed upon each breast in order to generate a reliable radiological imaging for analysis for breast cancer. Depending on the recommendations of the physician, women thus undergo mammography on a regular basis every 1–3 years.

In the last few years, there has been extensive debate regarding the use of mammography for the detection of breast cancer. Despite the importance of mammography in the diagnosis for breast cancer, not all women show signs of cancer development and thus legislators and physicians have questioned the cost-effectiveness of mammography in lowering cancer risk among women. It is true the mammography has the ability to detect tiny lesions in the breast that may not be noticeable through simple breast examination, yet it has also been suggested that there should be an additional means of selecting which individuals would be in greater need for this radiological assay. The cost of performing mammography for women starting at the age of 40 thus involves millions of dollars, with only a small fraction of this population being classified to have a high cancer risk or currently undergoing cancer development.

The Breast Cancer Study

According to a recent medical report published in the journal Insights Imaging, mammography still remains to be the most reliable technique in detecting breast cancer and early signs of cancer development despite its overuse in the female population. The report examined the medical records in various European countries in relation to the use of mammography in determining cancer risk, generating a report that lists the recommendations for use of radiological assay. The report indicated that in the absence of mammography, approximately 20% of breast cancer cases may go undetected and further cancer development in these individuals may result in greater mortality rates. The report also explained that most cases involving cancer development are free of symptoms of which only mammography can detect and thus performing this radiological technique appears to be the only effective way in reducing cancer risk among women. The report thus expressed its support of extensively using mammography in identifying signs of cancer development of the breast, despite the medical costs related to its implementation.

Regular medical examinations related to determining cancer risk have saved millions of lives around the world. In the case of identifying cancer risk of the breast, mammography still remains the most reliable method of screening for signs of cancer development. The use of mammography may entail costly equipment for screening lesions in the breast that often generate negative results in most women, yet this approach has effective identified patients with cancer of the breast that need to be immediately treated in order to prevent fatal results.


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