As options for breast cancer therapy have improved, breast cancer mortality is declining. At the same time, however, the benefits of mammography are dwindling, as screening for early detection consistently leads to overdiagnosis, while saving fewer women’s lives.
When mammography was introduced, early detection of breast cancer was estimated to prevent about twenty percent of deaths. In Norway in 1996, 731 women had to be invited to avoid dying from breast cancer. In 2016, you had to invite between 1364 and 3500 women to get the same result. The reason: “In the last 25 years, the death rate from breast cancer has practically halved. The positive effect of screening is diminishing as cancer treatment improves, ‘explained Dr Henrik Støvring of Aarhus University.
On the other hand, the number of overdiagnoses and overtreatments, one of the main disadvantages of mammography, remains unchanged: one in five women gets a positive mammogram result, but has a small lump that does not grow at all or grows so slowly that the woman can go forward without examination has never noticed or felt breast cancer in her life. Støvring explained how overtreatment occurs: “Of course, once a cancerous lump is discovered, it needs to be treated, although for some women it may not be necessary. We simply don’t know with whom “. In addition, many thousands of women are told each year that they have a suspicion of breast cancer, which turns out to be wrong.
What: DOI 10.1093 / eurpub / ckac047