D. Mail 7.10.08 "DOES BREAST CANCER SCREEING DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD?"
Interview by Thea Jourdan.
Michael Baum, Emertitius Prof. of Surgery at University College, London writes: (shortened)
Each year I dread Breast Cancer Awareness month because all it does is scare women, without any evidence that it contributes to a drop in breast cancer mortality. I have grave doubts about breast cancer screening. It causes far more problems than it solves & I speak as someone who was initially enthusiastic about it, setting up the first breast screening centre in S.E. England in 1987.
It misdiagnosed many women & didn't catch many aggressive tumours. Many women became more anxious about breast cancer & I spent a lot of time reassuring them. I resigned from the screening committee in 1997 over the issue of consent. I didn't believe women were being given a fair & informed choice, because they were not getting all the facts about the failings of screening.
Screening picks up latent cancers & anomalies that would not cause any problems if left alone.
The Cochrane Collaboration, a research organisation, said between 20-50% of screening-detected cancer are 'over-diagnosed'. So at least a quarter of women told they have breast cancer would have died from other causes if the cancer had not been detected. Yet these women undergo invasive procedures such as biopsy & suffer unnecessary misery. The biopsy may reveal borderline abnormalities which are unlikely to lead to cancer, yet fear of litigation means they cannot be ignored. So women often undergo surgery that if left alone the 'cancer' may never have caused them harm. Many undergo mastectomy. Women with no symptoms & borderline changes can end up having a breast removed for no good reason. Screening makes it more likely you will lose your breast unnecessarily. Women should be given all these facts to make their own decision on screening.
Imagine if the annual budget for breast screening of around £75 million was spent instead on prevention & cure.