Breast cancer being over-diagnosed by screening

A recent study has found 20 per cent of breast cancers are being over-diagnosed

Thousands of women are undergoing treatment for breast cancer that would never have gone on to have produced symptoms or proved fatal.

For every 2,500 women offered a screening, one death will be prevented, according to Harvard School of Public Health.

However, six to ten women undergo treatment including chemotherapy and even breast removal surgery unnecessarily due to breast cancer screenings.

In England, screening is being reviewed due to controversy about the measure’s effectiveness with some researchers saying screening may do more harm than good.

‘Mammography might not be appropriate for use in breast cancer screening because it cannot distinguish between progressive and non-progressive cancer,’ says researcher Dr Mette Kalager.

Cancer Research UK is currently working with the National Cancer Director on an independent review of breast screening.

‘Women need more accurate, evidence-based and clear information to be able to make an informed choice about breast screening,’ says Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager.

‘The decision whether to be screened is a personal one and that decision should be made with all of the potential harms and benefits fully explained.’

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