Study finds one kind of mammogram less effective at detecting breast cancer

The Canadian Press
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TORONTO — A study looking at technology used for mammography has found that one type is less effective at detecting breast cancer than others.

The Cancer Care Ontario study found digital direct radiography and screen film mammograms are better than digital computed radiography mammograms at uncovering breast tumours.

The research concluded that computed radiography, or CR, is 21 per cent less effective at detecting breast cancer than digital radiography, or DR.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health is spending $25 million to phase out all 76 CR devices in the province and replace them with DR technology in response to the study.

“The evidence was very clear that one particular technology wasn’t as good as others,” Health Minister Deb Matthews said Tuesday.

“So that’s why we are removing them and replacing them with more effective technology.”

Matthews said she wants to replace the equipment as quickly as possible, and the province has already put out a request for proposals.

“We’ve come a long, long way when it comes to our breast-screening program,” she said. “We know that it’s saving lives.”

Cancer Care Ontario says the chance of undiagnosed cancer in women screened with mammography using CR is extremely low.

But the agency is asking mammography clinics to inform women last screened with that technology.

CR technology is used nationally and internationally, and currently accounts for 20 per cent of all mammography machines in Ontario.

The study of almost 690,000 women in the Ontario Breast Screening Program is published in the journal Radiology.



Organizations: Cancer Care Ontario, Ministry of Health

Geographic location: TORONTO

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Recent comments

  • Maggy Carter
    May 14, 2013 - 15:30

    Several studies have concluded that mammography screening not only does not save lives, but that it might actually lead to misdiagnosis and over-treatment of women who were not at risk of dying from the disease. Early detection achieves nothing if it doesn't alter the final outcome, or if oncologists can't tell whether the cancers detected are life threatening. Studies also suggest that the rate of false positives from mammography screening is as high as 70%, and that false negatives are up to 40%. What does that mean? Well it could mean that women who are screened have a 70% chance of being told they have something that could be cancer when they do not, and a 40% chance of being told they have nothing to worry about when in fact they do. Add to that the cost and the stress and unnecessary grief associated with mammograms. Mammograms, of course, are just one example of a widespread belief in early and frequent testing for all kinds of diseases and medical conditions in this country. Not only has this public health care model of constant, expensive testing not produced a healthier Canadian populace, it has undoubtedly given many people a false sense of security and encouraged lifestyle choices that are proven to be detrimental to good health.