Many people have this belief that new technology is better because, well, it’s new technology.
But sometimes, new isn’t better – it’s just new.
There’s no question that MRIs have changed the way breast cancer is diagnosed and, as a result, how the patients who get them consider their treatment options.
But have MRIs been better than mammograms? No.
Consider this: The latest research shows that MRIs increase the likelihood of more aggressive treatment. But they don’t increase the odds of a longer life – women who get the MRIs and women who don’t have virtually identical survival rates.
MRIs don’t help with recurrences, either. Women who get them are no more likely to avoid future tumors.
According to commentary published in August in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, women who get MRIs as part of their breast cancer diagnosis are more likely to undergo mastectomy, in which the breast is removed, instead of a lumpectomy and radiation, in which much of the breast can be spared.
MRIs pick up between 3 percent and 5 percent more tumors than mammograms – but it’s unclear whether these tumors are more likely to be cancerous or benign. But one thing is clear: They do appear to alter the way women think about their cancer diagnosis.
The researchers speculate that MRI images may cause women increased anxiety, especially when they see those extra tumors pop up, and that causes many of them to opt for the more aggressive treatments, even when they aren’t necessary.
The problem is not that aggressive treatments don’t save lives – they clearly do. The problem is separating the small number of women who need them from the many who don’t. These treatments are disruptive and life-altering events – and women who can safely avoid them, should.
If MRIs are not helping to distinguish between these two groups, then they’re not better. And if more women are undergoing mastectomies when they don’t really need them because of this technology, then they’re worse.
Many men hear the words “prostate cancer” and panic. They want the most aggressive treatment possible – surgery – because they think they need it.
But some of them don’t.
Like breast cancer surgeries, prostate cancer surgeries are life-altering events that come with some very unpleasant and even traumatic side effects. Some men who undergo prostate cancer surgery face incontinence and sexual side effects.
Whether it’s prostate cancer or breast cancer, if it makes sense for you to avoid these surgeries, you should.
Your quality of life is at stake.
Dr. William B. Ferril
Dr. William B. Ferril's medical practice in Whitefish, Montana has become a beacon of hope for people throughout the country seeking relief from some of medicine’s most heartbreaking diseases. He also spent a decade practicing medicine on the Flathead Indian reservation in Western Montana.
Latest posts by Dr. William B. Ferril (see all)
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