Writing in a personal capacity in the bmj 22 August 2012, Every day in every way we are getting better and better; the optimism of health policy, Iona Heath, President of the Royal College of Practitioners says (of breast, lung and colorectal cancers) ,‘It is interesting that each of these cancers is the subject of existing or proposed screening programmes, yet it is by now undeniable that screening causes harms through overdiagnosis and overtreatment and too often increases survival without affecting overall mortality.3, 4
3 Woloshin S, Schwartz LM. How a charity oversells mammography. BMJ 2012;345:e5132.
4 Mayor S. Expert group advises separating risk and benefit information from cancer
screening invitations. BMJ 2012;345:e5322.’
(The increased survival is because when cancer is found by screening the person simply becomes a cancer patient earlier, without improving mortality.)
Yet, despite all the proven harms of over-diagnosis and over-treatment etc, without waiting for the report and conclusions of the current breast screening Independent Review, Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes writing in Pulse today is still encouraging GPs to recommend breast screening to women over 70 ‘if they are fit enough’.
Sadly, after screening, too many fit women will no longer be ‘fit’.