While therapy has improved quite a bit since 1985, the greatest benefit derives from most women avoiding the need for life-long treatment by having small tumors found and removed before they’ve spread.
A seemingly slight adjustment in a statistic, for teaching purposes, can significantly change a test’s calculated value….
There’s a new study out on mammography with important implications for breast cancer screening. The main result is that when radiologists review more mammograms per year, the rate of false positives declines. The stated purpose of the research,* published in the journal Radiology, was to see how radiologists’ interpretive volume – essentially the number of […]
A prominent article in yesterday’s New York Times considers some troubling problems regarding inaccuracy in breast cancer diagnosis and pathology. The main point is that some women get needless, disfiguring and toxic treatments after being told they have breast cancer when, it turns out, their condition was benign. My main take is that, whenever possible, […]
The risks and costs of breast cancer screening are exaggerated and misrepresented in the recent news…. My conclusion is that rather than ditching a life-saving procedure that’s imperfect, we should make sure that all doctors and radiology facilities are up to snuff.
We need to distinguish between errors in the measurement (cancer or not) and errors in decisions that we – patients and doctors – make after upon detecting a premalignant or early-stage malignancy in a woman’s breast.
Why bother, you might ask – wouldn’t it be easier to drop the subject?
“Make it go away,” sang Sheryl Crow on her radiation sessions.
I’ll answer as might a physician and board-certified oncologist who happens to be a BC survivor in her 40s: we need establish how often false positives lead, in current practice, to additional procedures and inappropriate treatment…These numbers matter. They’re essential to the claim that the risks of breast cancer screening outweigh the benefits.
“Well, well” says the convenience store clerk. “Back for another test?”
“I think the first one was defective. The plus sign looks more like a division symbol, so I remain unconvinced,” states Juno the pregnant teenager.
“Third test today, mama-bear,” notes the clerk.
…”There it is. The little pink plus sign is so unholy,” Juno responds.
She’s pregnant, clearly, and she knows she is.
(see clip from Juno the movie*)
Think of how a statistician might consider Juno’s predicament…
A colleague sent me an email about my math. You’re more or less right, he said, but you need to account for the false positives. I agree with him. (It’s true.) The problem is, among others, how to present those numbers in the press. Statistics don’t sell; still, an explanation is due. In my next […]