Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Breast Screening: Is it safe?
Breast screening: Does it save lives?
A row has broken out over controversial claims that screening for breast cancer may not actually save lives.

The study by Danish researchers reports that screening is not effective in preventing deaths, and can actually mean that patients receive further drastic treatments - such as mastectomies.

The scientists say mammograms do not just indicate dangerous tumours, but all sorts of other cell irregularities - and there is pressure to remove these in case they develop into cancer.

The new analysis contradicts a study by Britain's Imperial Cancer Research Fund, which shows that screening can cut death rates by as much as fifty percent.

Is breast screening necessary? Do you think women will be put off by these findings? Or is it better to be safe than sorry?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


"The study by Danish researchers reports that screening is not effective in preventing deaths, and can actually mean that patients receive further drastic treatments - such as mastectomies..." This is yet another misuse and misleading interpretation of statistical analysis. First, no screening is going to prevent death - we all die someday. Second, of course women who have abnormalities are going to opt for removal of the suspect tissue. The main purpose of screening is to find these abnormalities before they become uncontrollable. Mammograms and pap smears aren't fun, but they are far better than an undetected alternative.
Faye, USA

I work in a very small state office, I'm the third woman to have a biopsy done, which will be this Friday. One of the women had cancer and after treatment is recovering fine. My mass is very unusual and I would rather be safe than sorry, so I will have it taken out and tested. If it is cancer, I will proceed with treatment. Our office shows that having necessary biopsy save lives. We have good doctors who will not take out something that doesn't need to be taken out.
Geneva Hedgecock, USA


My cancer was picked up at my first mammogram at 50

Val Titheridge, England
My cancer was picked up at my first mammogram at 50. I had not detected a lump even though I checked my breasts regularly. I was told at the time that without an operation and treatment I would die! Therefore without my mammogram I would not be here today! I would think, therefore, that they must be worthwhile and the doctors are talking a load of rubbish.
Val Titheridge, England

When is the medical community going to stop confusing us and start giving us consistent and reliable information? Why is there always contradictory evidence about any medical condition? Can't these people agree before they issue their statements.
Phil T, Oman

Should we stop having pap smears because some of them are read wrong? I was saved from cancer of the cervix by getting screened every year. I am a firm believer that screening is better than nothing. If there's any doubt about what a doctor says, get a second opinion. I know several women who are alive today because they got screened and the doctor found "something". Then again I also know, or knew, several women who lost their lives to breast cancer because they didn't get screened, not once.
Jennifer, U.S.

The Danish study is, I hear, a re-study and justification of an earlier study made by the same team. On such a sensitive subject, I'd rather wait for other studies from other countries confirming the Danish view before even thinking stopping screening.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)


The Government should encourage a full debate so that women can decide in a culture of openness

Huw Sayer, UK
If all screening does is increase the number of unnecessary operations then why put woman through so much trauma for no purpose? Being safe not sorry is all well and good, but unnecessary operations can leave people less safe and more sorry. The surgeon's view, "If in doubt, cut it out," is callous and shortsighted. More research is needed. In the meantime the Government should encourage a full debate so that women can at least decide in a culture of openness and engagement, rather than being dictated to by vested interests.
Huw Sayer, UK

I have reached the age now that here in the US, it is "recommended" that I have annual mammograms. A firm believer in the theory that prevention is better than cure, I have put myself through this annual ordeal to be told by one doctor that one lump "probably" was nothing to worry about but "if it was a member of his family" he would recommend having it out. Then a year later, the exact scenario different doctor, another lump. The doctor used the family analogy, but said he believed it was nothing to worry about and wouldn't recommend doing anything, but if I wanted a biopsy then that was okay too. Until the interpretation of mammograms can be improved upon, women will generally choose surgery because they may not trust what they are being told.
Di Stewart, USA

My mother is alive today - and has both her breasts - because a radiologist spotted a tumour on her mammogram. Screening should be followed by further testing, as it was in her case, to determine if surgery is necessary, and if it is, what kind. But without the screening, my mother would probably not be here today.
Kate, USA


No one has ever thought to ask if she even needed the first preventative operations

Gill, UK
A friend is very ill from the damage caused to her by operations she has had to remove suspect lumps, found because she was always paranoid about contracting cancer and paid for regular private screening. Every procedure she goes through to correct a problem caused by an earlier procedure seems to cause even further complications. No one has ever thought to ask if she even needed the first preventative operations. Until now that is. She may never have had cancer but even if she had developed it eventually, she couldn't have been any worse off than she is now.
Gill, UK

This talking point has just been published your comments will appear shortly

See also:

19 Feb 01 | Health
Breast scan review launched
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Links to more Talking Point stories