Mammograms topic of lecture at Given | AspenTimes.com

Mammograms topic of lecture at Given

Aspen Times Staff Report

How effective are mammograms in reducing the risk of breast cancer?

A study published in October 2001 by a group of Danish scientists cast serious doubt on mammogram testing, sparking debate and controversy on the pages of newspapers around the world.

On Thursday at the Given Institute, mammography expert Dr. Richard Hirsh will cut through the confusion with a presentation titled, “Debunking the Mammography Controversy, from America to Beijing.” Dr. Hirsh is the founder of Radiology Mammography International, and is a Diagnostic Radiologist with Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio.

The free lecture is the first of six presentations offered this summer by top medical experts at the Institute, located at 100 East Francis St. The lectures begin at 5:30 p.m., with refreshments offered beginning at 5 p.m.

The mammogram controversy erupted when The Lancet, an esteemed medical journal, published the results of a Danish study that questioned the methods used in some of the original research on mammogram research conducted in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Are mammograms really effective?” asked Dr. Hirsh, in a recent interview. “Yes, they are effective in prolonging women’s lives, but perhaps not quite as much as was predicted in the original studies.”

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Dr. Hirsh cited a 2002 study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute that confirmed some flaws in the original research on mammograms, but maintained that the tests are still highly effective. Although early mammogram studies estimated that the tests reduced the risk of breast cancer by 30 percent, top experts now agree that mammograms reduce the risk of breast cancer by 21 percent.

As the controversy continued, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson took the unusual step of announcing new guidelines in February 2002 that call for younger women to undergo mammograms – a move that quelled fears about insurance companies reconsidering whether to cover the cost of the tests for younger women.

Dr. Hirsh said the latest guidelines recommend that women between the ages of 40 and 50 have mammograms every two years, while women over 50 should have mammograms every year.

“Mammograms are still the best screening for breast cancer, bar none,” said Dr. Hirsh. “And the techniques are improving as well.” Dr. Hirsh said he expects digital mammography to be the wave of the future, although it is currently too expensive for widespread use.

For more information, call 925-1057.

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