Breast cancer screening – lack of effectiveness and more harm than benefit

Calling for unbiased facts for those who advise women regarding screening mammography, Editor Athol Kent, writing in JASS, June 2015 talks about ‘obfuscation of the facts, (which) call into question the integrity of the screening mammography promoters’.
‘It is the editor’s opinion that women who make use of the current screening mammography programmes expose themselves to more harms than benefits.’ (May not be freely accessible.)

And in the DISCUSSION section of, ‘Breast cancer screening, incidence and mortality across US countries’. Charles Harding et al. 6 July 2015, JAMA Internal Medicine:
‘For the individual, screening mammography should ideally detect harmful breast cancers early, without prompting overdiagnosis. Therefore, screening mammography ideally results in increased diagnosis of small cancers, decreased diagnosis of larger cancers (such that the overall risk of diagnosis is unchanged), and reduced mortality from breast cancer. Across US counties, the data show that the extent of screening mammography is indeed associated with an increased incidence of small cancers but not with decreased incidence of larger cancers or significant differences in mortality. In addition, although it has been hoped that screening would allow breast-conserving surgical procedures to replace more extensive mastectomies, we saw no evidence supporting this change.’

‘Breast cancer screening, incidence and mortality across US countries’. Charles Harding et al. 6 July 2015.


Breast screening – Researchers claim benefits were vastly overestimated.
The Guardian, 8 July 2015, ‘Study casts doubt on breast cancer testing’. Sarah Boseley, Health Editor.

‘You may have read stories about people who believe their lives were saved because of a routine screening for a disease such as cancer…’
‘…in the case of UK women aged 50 screened for breast cancer for the next 20 years, one death is prevented for about every three over-diagnosed cases identified and treated. And there is no impact on death overall from all causes.’ Professor Susan Bewley, writing in The Conversation, 8 July 2015.
– Part of sense about science’s very good campaign to help general public understand screening.
* (Just a reminder – the above articles and research refer to breast screening programmes – that is regular use of mammography in women who have no breast symptoms. Women who have breast symptoms do need to get them checked by an appropriate medical professional.)


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, breast screening, Campaigns, citizen safety, clinical trials, death, healthcare modernisation, information, openness, Over-medicalisation, overtreatment, patient safety and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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