Friday, November 26, 2010

"Brawling Over Mammography"

An interesting debate about the problem of false-positives in medical testing. Obviously, everyone wants to be tested "just in case", but a sensible policy would favor plausibility testing; everyone is not equally likely to have every disease. This article from the February 19, 2010 issue of Science, details the situation surrounding the release of a report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that ran afoul of political accusations of "medical rationing". For women age 40-49 years with no other risk factors, the odds that a positive mammogram is actually due to cancer, rather than a false-positive test, is only about 2%. In other words, for every one breast cancer detection, 50 women are told that they have tested positive on their mammogram.

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