Breast cancer overdiagnosis may not be the problem many thought it was, Elizabeth Tracey reports


Screening mammography for breast cancer gets better all the time, finding very small cancers that may be most amenable to cure. Also detected more often are cancers that would never have caused a problem but are treated anyway, so-called overdiagnosis. Now a new study suggests that doesn’t happen as often as we feared. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, explains.

Nelson: In total, about 15.4% of screened breast cancers, one in seven, were likely to be these cancers that were nonprogressive, this is age fifty to seventy-four. You were more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer that might progress but not fast enough to threaten your life because you have other considerations. People have been very concerned about this overdiagnosis. Are we doing mastectomies and these kinds of things, more aggressively than we need to? And I think that this is a little bit of a relief, does suggest that it does occur, but it gives you a hint not as common as people thought.  :34

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.