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Mammograms' Value in Cancer Fight at Issue

The New York Times, September 23, 2010

A new study suggests that increased awareness and improved treatments rather than mammograms are the main force in reducing the breast cancer death rate.

Starting in their 40s or 50s, most women in this country faithfully get a mammogram every year, as recommended by health officials. But the study suggests that the decision about whether to have the screening test may now be a close call.

The study, medical experts say, is the first to assess the benefit of mammography in the context of the modern era of breast cancer treatment. While it is unlikely to settle the debate over mammograms — and experts continue to disagree about the value of the test — it indicates that improved treatments with hormonal therapy and other targeted drugs may have, in a way, washed out most of mammography’s benefits by making it less important to find cancers when they are too small to feel.

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