Some doctors are choosing to ignore the latest research findings on breast cancer screening. Despite evidence that demonstrates how breast cancer screening may be doing more harm than good, women are still faced with ‘pink’ messaging and propaganda that promotes screening and ignores or downplays the harms.
When new medical research was published in the past, only physicians and academics had easy access to the findings. The public wouldn’t hear about the new research until much later, if at all. The Internet has changed that, and these days many women may be more aware of the latest research than their doctors appear to be. When a new research study is published we can find ways to access the information, and sometimes the new research findings are splashed all over mainstream media.
For example, CTV news reported a study in 2012 which found that mammograms lead to overdiagnosis but have little impact on deaths. More recently, a New York Times article presented a vast Canadian study which found that breast cancer death rates were the same in women who had undergone mammography and those who had not.
The media’s offerings of research findings and the ease of access to information via the Internet makes it all the more baffling when some doctors continue to practice without acknowledging the latest research evidence.
Fortunately, more women are doing their own research and are making their own informed decisions about screening. However, because there is a great deal of propaganda and/or misinformation on the Internet, it can often be difficult to know what information is credible, and what information is not.
What follows is a compilation of the most well-researched information regarding breast cancer screening (Special thank you to Elizabeth of Australia and other contributors to this blog for providing the references, inspiration, and information for this post):
- Mammography leaflet written by Peter Gotzsche, et al. The leaflet presents information about both the potential benefits and harms of screening, based on the best scientific evidence available (i.e. randomized trials of breast cancer screening). Excerpt from the leaflet: Screening produces patients with breast cancer from among healthy women who would never have developed symptoms of breast cancer. Treatment of these healthy women increases their risk of dying, e.g. from heart disease and cancer. It therefore no longer seems beneficial to attend for breast cancer screening. http://www.cochrane.dk/screening/mammography-leaflet.pdf Peter Gotzsche is a professor, chief physician, and director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.
- The Nordic Cochrane Center summary on breast cancer screening: http://www.cochrane.dk/screening/index-en.htm
A speech by Peter Gotzsche titled “Time to Stop Mammography Screening” presented at the Evidence Live conference in Oxford in 2013:
- Article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled Effect of Three Decades of Screening Mammography on Breast Cancer Incidence by Archie Bleyer, M.D., and H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H.: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1206809
- Research article in BMJ titled Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study: randomised screening trial: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g366
Video by Professor Michael Baum titled Breast Screening: Some inconvenient truths
To conclude, a trailer from the film titled The Promise: truth about the breast screening program