I’m an informed member of Professor Amanda Ramirez’ Screening Information Panel, set up to support the Breast Screening Independent Review by providing truly honest public information about screening.
The Review was prompted by the accumulation of peer reviewed research from impeccable sources and several countries over recent years. This showed regular breast screening mammography (not to confuse with mammography used to diagnose symptoms) – actually causes significant harms rather than saves lives, mainly through unnecessary treatments.
It seems madness – goes against what we have always been told – but is due to increased understanding of breast cancer(s): finding it small does not equate to preventing spread/saving lives; finding it ‘early’ can simply mean being a cancer patient for longer (known to researchers as ‘lead time bias’); worse – with improved mammographic machinery, more and more tiny ‘changes’ that would never progress to cancer are treated as cancer – so the big issues are over-diagnosis and over-treatment. The diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ is of particular concern. It is not actually a cancer and may never progress to cancer, but is likely to be treated by mastectomy. Informed women might well prefer watchful waiting – the option often given to men with possible prostate cancer. There are other issues and these include radiation-induced cancers, and of course women experience anxiety, especially from false positives and false negatives, (these occur in addition to overdiagnosis/overtreatment) but the Review was not prompted by women’s anxiety.
The facts emerging from research raised debate and first triggered a review of the breast screening information which formerly had not been open. The revised leaflet was only slightly more honest. It was time women learned the truth.
It is intended that the new breast screening information will explain the significant harms, benefits and uncertainties as well as signpost people to further information and research links. Meanwhile, more information can be obtained:www.cochrane.dk/screening/mammography-leaflet.pdf