Scientists and doctors who treat women with breast cancer have polarised views on the worth of screenings. Can a new report forge consensus?
Breast cancer screening leads to thousands of women undergoing unnecessary treatment despite saving lives, researchers have said.
Thousands of babies in six areas across the country are to be screened for five rare diseases which - undetected - cause severe disability.
– Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK
Screening remains one of the best ways to spot the very early signs of breast cancer, at a stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.
We think it's vitally important for women to have access to clear information about breast screening, the balance of benefits and harms and the fact that they could be diagnosed with and treated for a cancer that might not cause them harm.
So, on balance, taking all the evidence into account, Cancer Research UK recommends that women go for breast screening when invited.
– Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Cancer Director
I welcome the fact that the review clearly recommends that breast screening should continue.
But 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. If any woman has concerns about breast screening she should talk to her GP or health professional.
The UK breast screening programme may be damaging more women's lives than it saves and should be scrapped, according to a professor.
– Professor Peter Gotzsche of the Cochrane Collaboration
We don't think a screening programme is justified because recent research has not found an effect on breast cancer mortality, whereas it's clear the programme does lead to harm because many healthy women get a cancer diagnosis that doesn't help them.
Screening detects a lot of cancers that are not dangerous. We call them over-diagnosed cancers, they are pretty harmless.
But many of these are treated by a mastectomy so when you introduce screening, you have more mastectomies. So seen over longer, there are more mastectomies in the screened areas.
- The NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme was launched in the UK in 1988 and invites all women aged between 50 and 70 to screening every three years.
- There has been an ongoing debate about the benefits and harms of screening for the past 10 years.
- An independent panel was tasked with analysing data from screening trials from a number of countries over recent decades.
- Its report concludes that screening reduces breast cancer mortality but that some overdiagnosis occurs.
- It found that for every life saved, three women were overdiagnosed.
Breast cancer screening leads to thousands of women undergoing unnecessary treatment despite saving lives, according to an independent review.
The official study found that as many as 4,000 women in Britain receive therapy for non-life threatening forms of the disease every year because of overdiagnosis.
But it revealed that about 1,300 lives are saved by mammography.
Trusts across the country currently screen every newborn for five conditions, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disorders.
Daybreak's Dr Hilary Jones says that at least 16 children are expected to be diagnosed and treated early enough to help them live normal lives.
Thousands of babies in six areas across the country are to be screened for five rare diseases which - undetected - cause severe disability. Daybreak's Katy Fawcett reports.