Women ‘misled’ over breast screening

Some breast cancer tests end in unnecessary treatment

UK experts say women are being misled over the risks involved with breast screening.

Information leaflets sent to women invited to mammograms do not tell the truth about the number of tests that result in unnecessary treatment, a group of British experts wrote in The Times.

Up to half of all breast cancers that are found in screening, if left untreated, might not do any harm during the woman’s natural lifespan, they said. So some women are undergoing unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The letter follows a report in the British Medical Journal that included the statistic that for every 2,000 women screened for ten years, one will avoid dying from breast cancer.

But ten will be treated unnecessarily for an abnormality that might never cause them harm and more will have false alarms that potentially cause them severe emotional distress.

Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Breast Screening Programme, said advice leaflets are currently being reviewed.

But Professor Peter Johnson from Cancer Research UK cautioned that the screening programme is still the best way of spotting breast cancer quickly.

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