Cancer is a frightening thought for people in Newton. Given the number of women who are faced with breast cancer on an annual basis, it’s often said that they should get regular mammograms and receive an early diagnosis in order to treat the disease. However, a study into misdiagnoses indicates that a cancer misdiagnosis in which patients were told they had breast cancer led to $4 billion in spending on an annual basis. This study looked at women between the ages of 40 and 59.

Given the number of times that patients are misdiagnosed, it is possible that the increasing costs might make screening a self-destructive endeavor. More than 700,000 women were looked at in the study. The American Cancer Society still recommends that women begin having annual tests when they turn 40. In 2009, however, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended women start being tested at age 50 and continue every two years until they are 74.

The number of women who receive a false diagnosis is high and mammograms are considered to be a reason for that. After the cancer misdiagnosis, women will have more medical treatment and face psychological issues due to the fact that they were told they had cancer when they didn’t. The number of patients who were told they had breast cancer when they actually didn’t was found to be between 22 and 31 percent of all those who were diagnosed.

Women in the survey were found to have been misdiagnosed in 11 percent of cases in which mammograms yielded a false positive. This led to an estimated 3.2 million false positives and almost $3 billion in costs. Another $1.2 billion resulted from women receiving an over-diagnosis.

While people frequently associate errors in cancer detection to be linked to a failure to diagnose cancer, those who are diagnosed but didn’t really have the disease also suffer due to a medical error.

Source:, “Breast cancer misdiagnoses cost $4 billion: Study,” Dan Mangan, April 6, 2015