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Monday 26th August 2019

Breast screening, women overdiagnosed

30th October 2012

Results of the Independent Breast Cancer Screening Review have found women should be told breast cancer screening could result in "unnecessary" surgery.


The review of the £96 million NHS campaign showed its leaflets did not highlight the potential dangers involved in screening and instead focused on its life-saving results.

All women in Britain from the ages of 50-70 are offered breast screening every three years, of whom 75% attend appointments.

The panel looked at 10 trials which involved nearly 600,000 women and estimated that it saved 1,300 lives annually.

They also said screening meant 4,000 women were given treatment for "early-stage" cancers which would "never spread".

The panel concluded that the number of cases of "overdiagnosis" was higher than they originally thought.

Professor David Cameron, clinical director of the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, said: "Breast cancer screening should continue as it is currently done in the UK. But we found the information given to women needs to be reviewed with our findings taken into account, so women are given an accurate picture of the benefits and harms."

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the NHS's National Cancer Director, started the review in 2011 in response to academic studies which said the risks involved in screening programmes were not being clearly stated and the benefits were exaggerated.

He said: "The key thing is that we communicate this new information to women so they can make an informed choice for themselves."

"NHS Cancer Screening Programmes have already asked independent academics to develop new materials to give the facts in a clear, unbiased way. I hope to see them in use in the next few months."


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