The Marmot Review of breast cancer screening

The Panel determined: of 75 women given a diagnosis by screening, 16 will die of cancer anyway, 37 are treated and survive – as they would have done if diagnosed due symptoms,  17 are over-diagnosed, only 5 women’s lives are ‘saved’ from breast cancer by screening.

So – On this basis (and dividing by 5) for every one woman given a screen-diagnosis who has her life saved from breast cancer, there are 3 over-diagnoses (extra cancer ‘victims’) and 11 women for whom the screen diagnosis makes no material difference. The figures might not even be this good as the panel didn’t perform a systematic review, or use ‘all cause mortality’ (which would include deaths from heart problems etc due to radiotherapy).

So for every 15 women who are ‘screen-diagnosed

  • 1 will not die of breast cancer (so screening ‘worked’) (5/75)
  • 3 will have been given over-diagnosis of  a ‘cancer’ that would never have bothered them in their lifetime (so screening didn’t work and was damaging) (17/75)
  • 8 would have still lived (so screening, although bringing diagnosis forward, didn’t work but didn’t harm – although being made a cancer patient earlier/for longer is harmful if early diagnosis was not necessary) (37/75)
  • 3 will still die of breast cancer (so screening didn’t work) (16/75)

And these figures are over-optimistic re the benefits of screening! See statement on Cochrane website


About bmitzi

Medical writer, author, artist. Cancer campaigner. Aiming always to improve health services and bring compassion into health care.
This entry was posted in Breast Cancer, Campaigns, Compassion in healthcare, Screening, Screening Mammography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Marmot Review of breast cancer screening

  1. shocking, so sad that women are having healthy breasts removed, and worse, as we don’t seem to deserve screening that actually works……..I pay privately for thermal imaging, I wouldn’t have a mammogram if you held a gun to my head

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