The study authors say their findings indicate that the cost of breast cancer overtreatment appears to be much higher than previously estimated. Their $4 billion figure is the midpoint of a range that depends upon assumptions about the rates of false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnosis.
Sharpening a medical debate about the costs and benefits of cancer screening, a new report estimates that the United States spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary medical costs due to mammograms that generate false alarms, and on treatment of certain breast tumors unlikely to cause problems.
The study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs breaks the cost down as follows: $2.8 billion resulting from false-positive mammograms and another $1.2 billion attributed to breast cancer overdiagnosis. That's the treatment of tumors that grow slowly or not at all, and are unlikely to develop into life-threatening disease during a woman's lifetime. The cost estimates cover women ages 40-59 years.