Cancer doctor credits mammogram with saving her life

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS MAY 8-9 ** In this photo taken on Thursday, May. 6, 2010, Medical Director Radiologist, Dr. Gerald Iba, checks mammograms, an advanced imaging screening that promotes early detection of breast cancer, at The Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection in Los Angeles. The financially-strapped California Department of Public Health temporarily banned new enrollments to the Every Women Counts program from Jan. until July 1. But it also upped the age to qualify for the program from 40 to 50. The changes are intended to reduce the number of mammogram recipients to 259,000 this fiscal year from last year's 311,000. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A local cancer doctor said a mammogram saved her life! But, a controversial new study said they may do more harm than good. She disagrees and worries now more women will put off getting screened.

The Danish study claims one in three women who find their breast cancer by a mammogram is treated unnecessarily. But OhioHealth Breast Surgeon Dr. Deepa Halaharvi, DO said she gets to watch her two kids grow up because her breast cancer was detected early.

Dr. Halaharvi is a busy mom, wife and physician.

“I did not take care of myself as most women don’t,” she said.

Despite recommending her patients start annual mammograms at 40, she put off getting her first until 42.

 “I’ll admit to it, I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching which I feel very bad to say that but it’s very true,” she said.

In March of 2015, she got the news she dreads telling her own patients.

“They called me back and said they found a mass in my right breast.”

Almost two years later she’s cancer-free and credits the mammogram with saving her life.

But, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine said many cancers diagnosed by mammogram would never become harmful– leading women to have unnecessary radiation, chemotherapy, even surgery.

“The thing with that is we really don’t know which cancer is aggressive and which cancer is not.”

Dr. Halaharvi said not all breast cancers pose the same risk, but the benefits of early detection and treatment outweigh the risks.

“It’s all about survival. It’s all about having a good quality of life with your family and kids.”

Because of her mammogram, she said she gets to live her life, even better.

 Dr. Halaharvi said she thinks the rate of over-diagnosis is not as high as the study says.

She said mammograms decrease the breast cancer death rate by up to 30%.

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