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April 01, 2014 AT 12:09 PM
A review of 50 years of studies of mammograms released Tuesday finds that the benefits have often been overstated and the harms minimized — adding to the confusion about what remains an annual ritual for many American women. But do the benefits of a mammogram outweigh the risks for you or your family members? That's a very personal question, and not one with an easy answer. Each patient has different risks that should be discussed with a doctor. According to the review, mammography screening is associated with a 19 percent overall reduction in deaths from breast cancer. This rate was not the same for all women, however. It reduced deaths by only 15 percent for women in their 40s and about 32 percent for women in their 60s. All of this underscores what we already know: This is not a perfect test and there is no hard and fast rule for mammograms that fits every woman.