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WHAT? Breast screening 'doesn't cut deaths,' study says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It flies in face of all known medical recommendations and advice given for the past several years - but according to a recent study, screening for breast cancer does not cut the chance of dying from the disease. Forty years worth of data compiled in the United Kingdom produced "no evidence" there was a greater fall in death rates in women who underwent mammograms.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In fact, the age group that showed the steepest fall in mortality rates were women younger than 40 years of age, who are not eligible for the regular X-ray check-ups.

The study casts doubts on the effectiveness of screening. Some experts now suggest that advances in treatment are more likely to account for the better chances of survival. The study was conducted by scientists from Oxford University's Department of Public Health, who looked at the Oxford region before and after the introduction of the NHS's screening program in 1988.
 
Comparing the results with Britain as a whole, they found no evidence that death rates fell greater in screened women.

Lead researcher Toqir Mukhtar said although the two million women a year who undergo screening may still benefit because cancer can be detected earlier, the annual cost of the program should be reviewed.

As published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the study contrasts with last year's Department of Health review, which concluded that screenings cut relative mortality by 20 percent.

"The good news for women is that breast cancer death rates are falling, but it is almost entirely attributable to better treatment rather than screening," Professor Michael Baum, a skeptic of screening, said.

In response, Eluned Hughes, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said it was hard to "unpick" the factors that contribute to improving survival rates.

"It's important that women have all the information available to them on the pros and cons of screening in order to make an informed choice that's right for them," she said.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, of Breast Cancer Campaign, claimed the Department of Health's "comprehensive" review proves that screening "does save lives."

And Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programs, said check-ups play a "key role" in giving women the best chance of receiving successful treatment. "All new evidence about the benefits and harms of breast cancer screening is kept under review to ensure that the breast screening programs are based on the latest available evidence," she added.

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