The mammogram debate renewed (5×8 – 4/3/12)

Treating breast cancer. Or not. Also: Scrambling the young brain, GI Bill blues in Mankato, the dawn of the flying car, and a visit from Beasley.


The mammogram debate should be picking up again thanks to a study out of Norway. In 2009, a recommendation that younger women not be regularly screened for breast cancer turned the status quo upside down. Now, a study in Norway estimates that between 15 and 25 percent of breast cancers found by mammograms wouldn’t have caused any problems during a woman’s lifetime, but these tumors were being treated anyway, CBS reports.

The researchers took advantage of the staggered decade-long introduction of a screening program in Norway, starting in 1996. That allowed them to compare the number of breast cancers in counties where screening was offered with those in areas that didn’t yet have the program. Their analysis also included a decade before mammograms were offered.

They estimated that for every 2,500 women offered screening, one death from breast cancer will be prevented but six to 10 women will be overdiagnosed and treated.

Study leader Dr. Mette Kalager and other experts said women need to be better informed about the possibility that mammograms can pick up cancers that will never be life-threatening when they consider getting screened. The dilemma is that doctors don’t have a good way of telling which won’t be dangerous.

“Once you’ve decided to undergo mammography screening, you also have to deal with the consequences that you might be overdiagnosed,” said Kalager, a breast surgeon at Norway’s Telemark Hospital and a visiting scientist at Harvard School of Public Health. “By then, I think, it’s too late. You have to get treated.”

All of which brings up a question: Is it worth having six people over diagnosed and over treated to save one life?


With what we’re learning about concussions and football, is it time to take a look at the pee wee game?

PBS last evening revealed the results of a study on 7 and 8-year olds in Virginia. It found the kids are taking some hard hits, the effects of which may be cumulative. And, the study found, the worst hits take place in practice.

Watch Young Football Players Take Big-League Hits to Head on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.


It was one sad story after another in Mankato yesterday when Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans told their tales of transitioning from the military to student life. The Mankato Free Press reports that one veteran told Rep. Tim Walz he was close to living in his car because the VA still hasn’t given him money for his education, even though it was supposed to be issued in December. A 10-year veteran said Minnesota State University is holding up a degree because he needs to take required classes. “They also wanted me to take a phy-ed course,” the vet said. “I did phy-ed for 10 years.”

Another student got F’s because he couldn’t attend class. He couldn’t attend class because he’d been sent off to a war. State law prohibits failing grades for deployed soldiers.


It flies! Terrafugia Inc. said yesterday that its flying car has completed its first flight. It hopes to begin selling the thing within the next year.


feature_beasley_amplatz_120402_292.jpgPut me down in the Michael Beasley fan column, please. Thank you.

WNBA stars spend the “off season” making the real money by playing overseas. Seimone Augustus of the Lynx, for example, plays in Russia for Spartak Vidnoje. She and two other Americans on the team don’t see their families much and don’t speak Russian. But they earn four times what they earn in the WNBA.

The BBC profiles the team and players today. Its owner, Shabtai von Kalmanovich, was jailed in Israel once as a spy for the KGB. Two years ago he was gunned down, his black Mercedes riddled with bullets in what police called a contract killing.

Bonus I: One word. Just one word: Eels.

Bonus II: At the GOP national convention, you won’t be able to bring a squirt gun to the “protest zone.” But real guns are OK.

Bonus III: Some officials are worried people will stop playing the lottery unless there’s a big jackpot.


Personal information from the 1940 census was made available to the public Monday morning. The information was expected to be a windfall for people researching their family histories, but heavy demand slowed online access. Today’s Question: What part of your family’s history would you most like to learn about?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The power of the bully pulpit. How effective is presidential rhetoric? How much power does the president have to persuade?

Second hour: The health effects of noise. We all know that unwanted noise can annoy us, but recent studies have found that noise can lead to a host of health problems such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease – it can even change the way we speak. In children, disruptive noise can lead to affect long-term memory and cause learning disruptions. As our world gets louder, we examine what we can do to stay healthy.

Third hour: Women and STEM. A recent study shows that girls do better than boys in STEM classes in school, however, the number of women pursuing science and math degrees and/or careers is still low. What can be done to turn the tide and what programs are already out there encouraging and mentoring women into STEM careers?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Author David Treuer speaks at the Hennepin County Library.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Buyers and sellers, and the balance of power in retail.

Second hour: Traditional media, social media and Trayvon Martin.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – University of Minnesota officials have begun looking into the prospect that changing the academic calendar could significantly improve the U’s financial picture. MPR’s Alex Friedrich will have the story.

For almost half a century, Head Start programs have helped kids in poverty with varying levels of success. Now the Obama administration wants faltering programs to shape up or lose their federal funding. NPR reports on Head Start programs competing to survive.

  • jon

    The Pal-V is also making test flights for those who are of the car/gyro-copter mash-up.

    Looking forward to hearing “What’s that up in the air?” “It’s a bird!”

    “It’s a plane!”

    “It’s a car!”

    “It’s a helicopter!”

    “It’s a Superman driving some sort of terrible mixture of the last 3!”

  • BenCh

    Re: GI Bill

    I have a friend (here in Duluth) who every semester has had trouble getting his veteran payments. Last year he couldn’t pay rent for over 3 months (luckily he had nice landlords) until his payment came in. This year the same thing was happening, even with all of the calls to all the right people. Since he couldn’t pay for school, he stopped taking classes and currently is working as a bartender to pay rent, still a year or two away from getting a degree.

  • Sue

    Not only are mammograms leading to over treatment, they are also contributing to cancer. There is an amazing amount of radiation that comes with a yearly mammogram.

    Since I have educated myself on the harm and over diagnosis from mammograms I stopped getting them. I stopped telling friends and colleagues that I stopped. I got too many you “should be”.

  • allie

    RE: GI Bill

    I wonder if this is isolated to MN, or is a result of the GI Bill revamp within the last few years? My husband was on the GI Bill in WI (UW-River Falls), and payments seemed to be delayed a month or so at the worst; we would pay for last month’s school bills with the current month’s check. This was in 2007-2009.

    A shame if it’s gotten worse, or MN is shortchanging our vets.

  • allie

    (Should also point out that the timely payments allowed the husband to complete school on time, land a job at a small business within a few months, buy a house with said job’s income, and start a family. Getting that degree makes a huge, HUGE difference to the individual and his/her family, and I have to imagine, has an impact on the economy on some level, however small.)

  • boB from WA

    RE #4: Glad to see the pilot/driver took time to do his pre-flight before taking off. Wonder how many people will forget, once this enterprise gets off the ground (pun intended)?

  • Kassie

    I think all vets, and anyone on social services, should be given classes on how the system works and advocating for themselves. A lot of times expectations are just too high. While the vets should be given funds timely, they should be informed that they will likely be late and here is how to work with landlords, schools, etc. Of course, in the perfect world those payments would be on time, but if that isn’t the case, the vets should know that and what to actually expect.

    This goes for all benefits type program. To get on SSI, the average applicant waits over two year. TWO YEARS to get their application approved. It goes through multiple appeals. But so many get denied in the first round and stop trying, or they think the money is going to come any day. There is a false expectation that the system works, but it just doesn’t. Anything that involves getting benefits to someone is understaffed and ripe with bureaucracy since so many people are afraid of fraud.

  • gKaplan, MD

    re: recent article “Overdiagnosing Breast Cancer”

    As physicians, it is high time we emphasize prevention.

    The “China Study ” by C Campbell ( Cornell U, in concert with the ,US National Institute of Health, Chinese dept of health and Oxford U), exhaustively shows most cancers are strongly influenced by western diet. This study encompassed over 600 million people, plus over 30 years of lab animal clinical trials . As affluence increases in western societies, more meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and eggs are consumed. This is translated in increasing breast, prostate, colon and many other cancers. This diet also causes cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type II diabetes, immunological diseases and some arthritis The cost in terms of lives, and expense is decimating families and healthcare’s treasury.

    The documentary movie Forks over Knives by C. Esselsteyn, chief surgeon of the Cleveland Clinic illustrates this. THis is so compelling that Pres. B Clinton after several failed cardiac attacks had to heed this advise, something that has given him a new lease on life. It is because of this, that Mrs. Obama, is encouraging addressing this most serious threat to our national health, by startting this in school lunches. Unfortunately, this is not a topic taught in medical school.

    G Kaplan, MD

    Cleveland Ohio