The computer glitch that resulted in women not being offered breast screening means they are more likely to have avoided unnecessary treatment than to have had their lives put at risk. The breast screening review by Sir Michael Marmot concluded harms outweighed benefits by 3 to 1 – and that did not even include all-cause mortality. Deaths from treatments seem to be ignored – and although overdiagnosis and overtreatment are now acknowledged harms, the general public seem to be unaware of the scale of these harms and think the only risk is radiation. And how many women who are being invited to screening as part of the extended programme realise these harms – and that they are being asked to take part in the largest ever randomised controlled trial – AgeX – without any consent process?
Let’s hope this letter in today’s The Times raises awareness and women begin to understand that breast screening is not the life saver it was originally thought to be. But how to stop a Juggernaut?
‘Catching some things that look like cancer down a microscope (before it exists) can be too early’
‘The most dangerous advanced cancers are not prevented by screening programmes’
‘The breast screening programme mostly causes more unintended harm than good’
‘Many women and doctors now avoid breast screening because it has no impact on all-cause death’
‘Claims of lives ‘saved’ are counteracted by deaths resulting from interventions’
‘The breast screening programme has been slow to tell women the full truth’
‘Women are entitled to accurate, understandable information about health’
Susan Bewley, professor of women’s health, KCL; Michael Baum, professor emeritus of surgery, UCL; other signatories including those of more doctors can be found at thetimes.co.uk/letters
See also: https://www.healthwatch-uk.org/ – the charity that has been promoting science and integrity in healthcare since 1991.