Thousands get breast cancer treatment they do not need
Published 01/11/2012 | 05:00
WOMEN will get more information about the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening after a UK review found some suffered unnecessary treatment.
BreastCheck, the free cancer screening programme, will look at the information provided to women in light of the findings.
The independent review in the UK showed that for every life saved by the checks, three women had unnecessary treatment, such as surgery, for cancers that would never have been fatal.
A panel of experts led by University College London professor Michael Marmot concluded that screening prevented about 1,300 deaths per year in Britain.
But it also leads to about 4,000 women having treatment for a condition that would never have threatened their lives.
A spokeswoman for the Irish version of the service, BreastCheck, said: "BreastCheck welcomes the outcome of the NHS breast screening programme review, and the finding that it is vital to give women information that is clear and accessible before they go for a mammogram so that they can understand the potential harms and benefits of the process."
The BreastCheck spokeswoman said that between February 2000 and September 2011, it provided 800,452 mammograms to 362,701 women and detected 4,917 breast cancers.
She said that last year BreastCheck developed a fact sheet on the benefits and limits of breast screening and also non-invasive cancers.
Women receive two information leaflets by post in advance of their appointment, which advises that women of any age can get breast cancer, but that the risk increases with age.
It points out that not all breast cancers can be found by a mammogram, that some women may find the mammogram painful, and that some non-invasive cancers will be found by screening.
Cancer charities here have stressed that women should still get screening.
This was echoed by charity Cancer Research UK, which commissioned the review.
The review, published in the 'Lancet' medical journal, found that a woman who took up the invitation to have the breast X-ray had a 1pc chance of being overdiagnosed.
These overdiagnosed women have had a tumour identified but it would never have caused them harm.
It means they would be sent on for treatments such as surgery, hormone therapy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy which would have side-effects.
The problem for doctors is that they have no way of knowing if the tumours pose a life-threatening risk.
The advice to women is that on balance they should go ahead with screening.
Women who would like more detailed information can freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visit the BreastCheck website