The latest musical parody from the endlessly creative James McCormack:
The Emperor’s New Clothes, or ‘Breast Screening Unzipped’:
Screening! We love screening!
It not only saves our lives – it saves breasts too!
Screening! Lovely screening!
– If they take away our screening, what’re we going to do?
Hallo! I’m the Messenger
Shoot me if you must
But isn’t ‘having eyes opened’
better than ‘blind trust’?
So – ‘what did they say to those ladies?’
asked to come in for the test
And why did those ladies believe them?’ –
Was it fear of losing a breast?
Stand in line – and comply?
‘Screening Saves Lives’, pledged the mantra
The same message over the years
And ‘finding it early’s the best thing’
If you want to allay all your fears
– Must be true
It’s the best thing to do
That’s why we ladies believed them
We didn’t want to be dead!
And words that are often repeated (‘Saves Lives’!)
Tend to stick inside your head
In your head
-Become truth…in your head
We never knew of the dangers
Or that where ‘take-up’ was low
GPs were paid to encourage us
Yes, pressure us ladies to go!
– despite harms, just comply
Unsolicited appointments drop through the door
pointing out the carrot – ‘screening is for free’
but the cost of acceptance is not monetary
decline the invitation and expect to get more-
‘your doctor is concerned that you didn’t attend’
– we were ‘ignorant’ and ‘stupid’
to decline, the tone implied
– so we doubted ourselves
and, in the end – we went
Had the mantra lied?
For, despite the great cost in ladies’ lives lost
Screening failed to produce
– And advanced breast cancer deaths
simply failed to reduce!
Such inconvenient truths!
Yes, it’s counter-intuitive
But the Marmot Review
looked at all the evidence
And the Parliamentary Inquiry
made the same conclusions too:
Screening harms many
and benefits few
False-positives and negatives
plus radiation risks
And overdiagnosis, such as DCIS
So-called ‘cancers’ that may not ever progress
Yet ‘treatment of choice’ is likely to be
But without sufficient take-up
the Juggernaut would fail
Think of the outcry!
Think of votes lost…
Protect the screening industry
jobs, and machinery
(at any cost)
Stick to the ‘no-brainer’ everybody knew:
‘finding it early is the best thing you can do!’
‘Don’t take away our screening’ cried the ladies who had ‘been there’
‘Screening works – you can see!
‘Saved our lives – just- look- at- me!
Well-meaning patient advocates descended on London
Their serried ranks filling Westminster halls
Echoing mis-guided cancer charities’ calls to
‘Extend the screening age range!’
So, screening was extended –
But now participation meant automatic entry to an R.C.T.
A Randomised Controlled Trial
‘the largest in the world’ they said
But still they didn’t tell us – how could this be?
A human experiment – with only implied consent, based on false information?
Just how ethical was this R.C.T. ?
Has oversight been lacking?
What’s the full story?
I tried to get some answers – wrote to all and sundry
But they weren’t giving explanations to the likes of me
Then along came HealthWatch, the independent charity
For science and integrity
They didn’t find it easy, but they got the story out
With research links posted for everyone to see
Though it goes against all we’ve been told in the past
The ‘find it early ‘ principle has been unmasked
Yes, it’s counter-intuitive but
unlikely as it seems –
A breast cancer diagnosis is more likely if you’re screened
Mitzi Blennerhassett (c) 2015
‘New rules of consent – the patient decides’. The Montgomery ruling and breast cancer screening – Alain Braillon, Susan Bewley: http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1534/rapid-responses