Monday, November 21, 2011

Screening does more harm than good?

I found an article saying that the UKs NHS policies of screening for breast cancer do more harm than good. Hello - screening is a good thing.

According to the article, the NHS invites women over 50 to have three-year screening mammograms (that is one every three years). Yes mammograms pick up things that may never turn into to tumors/problems at all causing stress and worry but the tumors they catch are more likely to be caught early. As opposed to the ones caught later in manual exams which are usually caught in later stage. And one third of all breast cancers are caught between the mammograms. But is the stress of a false positive more damaging than a late stage cancer diagnosis? I'll take the false positive risk any day. As opposed to the 'we found it too late risk'.
The article adds that women with breast cancer in their families should get the gene test because ten percent of all diagnosis are hereditary. That means 90% of all breast cancers have no hereditary connection - what are those people supposed to do? Get a mammogram every three years and cross their fingers in between?. A red rash can be a sign of inflammatory, an aggressive cancer - which is very rare, just a few percent each year of all cases diagnosed. Women should also be breast aware and do regular monthly self exams. Well, blah, blah, blah, this is nothing new.

Finally the article ends with: "Prof Evans tells menopausal women with a family history to avoid hormone-replacement therapy as artificially raising hormone levels can increase risk of breast cancer. The hormone oestrogen, which can drive some forms of breast cancer, is produced by fatty tissue. So the fatter you are, the bigger the risk."

Where do I have a problem this article? I am not sure I can count that high. I originally read this article and thought it might be a nice blog topic on the pros and cons of screening. Then I really started reading it and got ticked off. A mammogram every three years after age 50? And then they stop after age 70 unless requested by the patient? ‘By the age of 80 any lump is likely to be breast cancer. Women should be aware of any changes.’ - so at the highest risk age, screening is only at patient request? That is so (il)logical to me - it must be a government regulation.  And did they just call me fat when discussing HRT and estrogen? They made me feel it was the fact I was not the perfect size 6 that is why I ended up with estrogen receptive breast cancer. I am not slamming the NHS but maybe they just need a new bedside manner in this whole article.

1 comment:

L Braun said...

Hi Caroline, good post. Here is another insight on breast cancer screening that you and your readers might find interesting. Make sure to read the perspective at the bottom. http://www.hemonctoday.com/article.aspx?rid=88821