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New research points to over-treatment, misunderstandings of breast cancer




Stacey Bowles inside the machine that uses radiation to treat her for breast cancer at the UCLA Heath Center in Santa Monica.
Stacey Bowles inside the machine that uses radiation to treat her for breast cancer at the UCLA Heath Center in Santa Monica.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

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The U.S could save billions of dollars and better serve women by pushing back breast cancer screenings a decade – from the age of 40 to 50. That’s the theory of a leading breast cancer specialist Laura Esserman at UC San Francisco.

Esserman’s thoughts on the disease are sparking contentious debate within the medical community. Writer Peggy Orenstein profiled Esserman for the latest edition of California Sunday Magazine. 

“The incidents of women presenting with late-stage cancer has not budged since the mid 1970s when mammography first began. That in itself is significant. We’re not seeing fewer women presenting with late-stage cancer, which is what you would expect if mammography worked the way it should,” Orenstein said.

Orenstein also says evidence shows women are being over-treated for breast cancer.

"Early detection is not going to be the panacea. We need to get off it already and figure out what we do need to do," she said.

Orenstein’s article appears in California Sunday Magazine, on stands this weekend. You can also read her story here: When Cancer is not Cancer