Breast cancer screening – yet more

Two interesting articles here. The first – from Australia – is not entirely anti-screening (see, I’m not a zealot really), but it does suggest that balanced information is what women need – yes, absolutely. The second is about suggestions of a change of approach to the UK screening programme, and I wonder if it is a political move. Realising that the pressure from the pro-screening lobby and the only partially-informed public is too great for a complete dismantling of the the NHSBSP to be acceptable, Michael Marmot suggests increasing screening for those deemed to be at risk, and -maybe – reducing it for other women.

I am cautiously positive about this. Because medics would need to explore the concept of risk with the “at-risk” women, and give more detailed information. IF they could do this in an unbiased, open way, without exerting pressure, this might be better than what we have got at the moment —

Even stars explode

Advice on breast screening – from the Australian Breast Cancer Network:


‘Call for a change to breast cancer screening approach’ – Pippa Stevens, BBC News, 22 March 2014
A study analysed 53,467 women between 2009 and 2013 and found 14,593 women had an ‘above average’ risk of developing breast cancer. (Presumably there were another 14,593 (50%) women who are below average risk.) Professor Michael Marmot is calling for a trial.

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Screening does not prevent aggressive breast cancer

The evidence just keeps growing —

Even stars explode

Breast screening was thought to detect cancer before it had spread, but a new Danish study of Norwegian women’s screening results shows that breast screening does not detect those aggressive killer cancers early enough. Screening detects mainly ‘dormant’ cancers that are slow growing and usually not fatal, and many of them would never become a problem in a lifetime (overdiagnosis/overtreatment).

“The objective of breast screening is to prevent the aggressive and deadly types of cancer, but our study shows that the screening only has a minimal effect on the number of women who develop aggressive breast cancer,” says Henrik Støvring, an associate professor at the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University, Denmark, and lead author of the new study, published in the European Journal of Public Health. Eur J Public Health (2014) doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku015 First published online: March 4, 2014.

‘If the screening had a preventive effect and caught…

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Commons Select Committee on NHS Health Screening

Since I last posted, we have moved house. We are still coming round from the upheaval, and are busy helping B’s parents to move, too! But the little house and the large office are shaping up; I cooked apple crumble for 50 yesterday, and B is digging on a land party on Sunday (we have benefited from other people’s gardening and cooking as well). As I said before, busy is good, and though I had to be efficient about re-registering with the local surgery in order to maintain continuity in my medication, I haven’t given breast cancer much thought recently. But before the rush started, I sent a submission to this Select Committee. This is now published along with other submissions, here (scroll down the page, noting the choice of a cute picture of a prenatal scan – not a needle, a speculum, or a mammography machine):

I have not read all the submissions in detail, but here is what I have gleaned so far re breast cancer screening.

The Royal College of Physicians and  the radiologists (who both put in very slight submissions), support the screening programme. So do two cancer charities (odd –  what’s their investment in it?), and Public Health England, who runs it. But this is the view of all the other individuals and groups who wrote to the Inquiry, some of them in great detail:

The breast cancer screening programme is rubbish. It is not carried out ethically: it does harm and no good; it does not save lives; it costs a lot of money.

I wonder what happens next.