Independent review shows breast screening saves lives despite some overdiagnosis

Thursday 1 November, 2012

A large independent British review of the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening published in The Lancet has found that breast cancer screening does save lives.

Cancer Council Victoria have published a media release about the review.

The UK review concluded that:

Population breast cancer screening offers significant benefits and should continue. A greater proportion of women accepting the invitation to participate will result in a greater benefit to the public health and the reduction in breast cancer mortality.

The benefits include a suggested 20% reduction in mortality for those women invited to be screened, preventing 1300 cancer deaths per year in women 50 to 70 years. The findings also acknowledge the risk of over diagnosis, indicating a 1% chance of over diagnosis occurring, based on their consideration of the evidence available.

Interviews with women have indicated that the risk is worth taking, however clear communication of the harms to enable informed decision-making is strongly encouraged. The panel acknowledge that there's a lack of data relating to over diagnosis to make a truly informed decision about this issue.

According to Kate Broun, Cancer Council Victoria's Screening Programs Manager, the review shows that the benefits of regular mammographic screening clearly outweigh the risks of overdiagnosis.

It's important that women understand the pros and cons of breast screening

Support for those who've been diagnosed with breast cancer is available – call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20.

Mammograms are available by phoning BreastScreen Victoria on 13 20 50.

The reports can be found on the Cancer Research UK site and are generally supportive of breast screening.