In 2013, the Swiss Medical Board, an independent health technology assessment initiative, was requested to prepare a review of mammography screening. The team of medical professionals included a medical ethicist, a clinical epidemiologist, a pharmacologist, an oncologic surgeon, a nurse scientist, a lawyer, and a health economist. Two of those members, Nikola Biller-Andorno, M.D. Phd. and Peter Juni, M.D, opened up about the project in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In 2016, it was estimated that approximately 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States as well as 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Mammograms continue to be touted as the most effective screening tool we have today to find breast cancer.
However, these two doctors were shocked to discover that there is minimal evidence that actually indicates that the benefits of mammography screening outweigh the harms.
The relative risk reduction of approximately 20 percent in breast-cancer mortality associated with mammography that is currently described by most expert panels came at the price of a considerable diagnostic cascade, with repeat mammography, subsequent biopsies, and overdiagnosis of breast cancers — cancers that would never have become clinically apparent.
The Canadian National Breast Screening Study, which was conducted over the course of 25 years, concluded that 106 of 484 screen-detected cancers were overdiagnosed.
The fact that the benefits of this form of cancer screening are so overestimated seems worrisome for the medical community and patients at large.
A Must-Read Book on Breast Cancer: The 5th edition of The Breast Cancer Survival Manual by Dr. John Link
How, in this day and age, do we not have more awareness, more answers, and better technology?
Another review of 10 trials involving more than 600,000 women discovered no evidence that mammography screening was effective on overall mortality. This caused concern over the benefits of the medical practice. A survey of U.S. women’s views on the mammography screenings discovered that 71.5 percent of women think that it lessened risk of death from breast cancer by half, while 72.1 percent believed that 80 deaths could be avoided per each 1,000 women screened. Their perceptions were gravely over-calculated. In fact, when looking at the real numbers, mammography results in a risk reduction of 20 percent and only 1 death can be prevented per 1,000 women screened.
The Swiss Medical Board report became public in February 2014, provoking the board to advise that the quality of mammography screening ought to be evaluated and that women should be educated about both the benefits and the harms of the medical practice.
The report created controversy within the Swiss medical community, even though it supports a growing perspective around the world that mammography for breast cancer screening in asymptomatic populations is outdated and harmful at best.
Per each prevented dead by mammograms, there are 3-14 women over-diagnosed with breast cancer Click To Tweet
When reviewing the data in regards to every breast cancer death prevented in U.S. women over a 10-year period of yearly screening starting at the age of 50, you will find that:
- 490-670 women usually have a false positive mammogram with repeated examination.
- 70-100 women usually have an unnecessary biopsy.
- 3-14 women were the victim of over-diagnosed breast cancer that would never reach clinical relevance.
Furthermore, up to 50 percent of women have breast tissue that is dense. This makes it very hard to read mammograms correctly, as dense breast tissue and cancer both show up white on an X-ray.
Due to the lack of evidence in support of mammography and the clear potential risks involved with them, the board chose to recommend cancelling mammography-screening programs altogether. Although their recommendations are not legally binding, the report caused an uproar amongst Swiss cancer experts and organizations. The doctors on board reported:
One of the main arguments used against it was that it contradicted the global consensus of leading experts in the field… Another argument was that the report unsettled women, but we wonder how to avoid unsettling women, given the available evidence.
It’s clearly no mystery why the board become increasingly concerned about their researcher. The “evidence” simply does not back up the global consensus of other experiences in the field suggesting that mammograms were safe and capable of saving lives.
When it comes down to it, we are dealing with outdated clinical trials, the benefits do not clearly outweigh the harms, and women’s perceptions of mammography benefits do not match reality.
Interesting to Read: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) during Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond by Marc Silver
More Information On Breast Screenings
In 2011, 220,097 women and 2,078 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,931 women and 443 men in the United States died from breast cancer. It has become the most common type of cancer among women.
Below is a trailer of a documentary entitled, “The Promise”. The film interviews various researchers, scientists, doctors (and more), all of whom are hoping to shed light on a practice which is turning out to be not only useless, but harmful to those taking part. There is more information below the video, but it is highly recommended that you watch the documentary.
What’s the bottom line?
Mammograms are not the most effective way to detect breast cancer!
In fact, having a mammogram is likely the last thing you want to do if you have breast cancer.
A study published in The European Journal of Public Health Titled “Trends in breast cancer stage distribution before, during and after introduction of a screening programme in Norway” found that breast screenings actually increase the incidence of localized stage cancers without reducing the incidence of advanced cancers.
The study, which used a huge population sample of 1.8 million Norwegian women diagnosed with breast cancer from 1987 – 2010, found that:
The annual incidence of localized breast cancer among women aged 50–69 years rose from 63.9 per 100 000 before the introduction of screening to 141.2 afterwards, corresponding to a ratio of 2.21 (95% confidence interval: 2.10; 2.32).The incidence of more advanced cancers increased from 86.9 to 117.3 per 100 000 afterwards, corresponding to a 1.35 (1.29; 1.42)-fold increase. Advanced cancers also increased among younger women not eligible for screening, whereas their incidence of localized cancers remained nearly constant.
This study outlines how Norway’s breast screening program has actually increased the chance of being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer by more than 200%, as well contributing to an increased chance of receiving advanced stage breast cancer diagnosis by 35%. This is the opposite of what mammograms are supposed to do; if they were useful than the incidence of cancers would be lower and not higher.
The study concluded that:
Incidence of localized breast cancer increased significantly among women aged 50–69 years old after introduction of screening, while the incidence of more advanced cancers was not reduced in the same period when compared to the younger unscreened age group.
It’s important to note that, “although the study did measure the impact of Norway’s breast screening programme, a comparison of trends between participants and nonparticipants in the age group eligible for screening warrants further investigation. Also the causal link between stage distribution and mortality needs to be investigated in the context of screening.”
A paper published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal set out to prove that breast screening by mammography is associated with a steeper fall in mortality cancer compared to other countries who were not offering this service. They did not expect to find the complete opposite; they found a drop in breast cancer mortality among women who were not screened. They concluded that the recent downward trend in breast cancer mortality had nothing to do with screening and everything to do with improvements in treatment and service provision.
The new data published in the BMJ now suggests that none of the gratifying falls in breast cancer can be attributed to screening and that the very existence of a NHSBSP (National Health Service Breast Screening Programme) should be questioned.
A study published in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular mammogram screenings do not reduce breast cancer death rates Click To Tweet
Unless there is public pressure for an independent inquiry to challenge the status quo, it will be business as usual for the screening programme. Furthermore, the Department of Health has painted itself into a corner and it is no longer a question of scientific debate – the subject has become too politicized by those who like to avoid U-turns at all costs. – Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery and visiting Professor of Medical Humanities at University College London, is a leading British surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer treatment.
As Sayer Ji, founder of Greenmedinfo.com points out, a National Cancer Institute commissioned expert panel concluded that “early stage cancers” are not cancer, they are benign or indolent growths. This means that millions of women were wrongly diagnosed with breast cancer over the past few decades and have been subjected to harmful treatment, when they would have been better off leaving it untreated or diagnosed; frighteningly, it is not uncommon for a breast cancer misdiagnosis to occur.
Another study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular mammogram screenings do not reduce breast cancer death rates. And they found no evidence to suggest that mammograms are more effective than personal breast exams at detecting cancer in the designated age group. The study involved 90, 000 Canadian women and compared breast cancer incidence and mortality up to 25 years in women aged 40-59.
The study was conducted over a period of 25 years.
Many Studies Showing The Same Thing
The sheer number of studies that have been published on breast mammography examinations and their failure to produce a benefit in screened populations is overwhelming. What’s even more disturbing is the fact that these types of examinations have also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, and to have negative implications for both physical and mental health.
To finish, watch Dr. Ben Johnson explaining to Ty Bollinger in the docu-series “The Truth about Cancer“, how mammograms can actually produce cancer.
- In 2011, 220,097 women and 2,078 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,931 women and 443 men in the United States died from breast cancer.
- A paper published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal set out to prove that breast screening by mammography is associated with a steeper fall in mortality cancer compared to other countries who were not offering this service (read the full paper here)
- In 2016, it was estimated that approximately 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States as well as 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. (source)
- Incidence of localized breast cancer increased significantly among women aged 50–69 years old after introduction of screening.
- A study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular mammogram screenings do not reduce breast cancer death rates. And they found no evidence to suggest that mammograms are more effective than personal breast exams at detecting cancer in the designated age group. (see the full study here)
- Another study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal concluded that regular mammogram screenings do not reduce breast cancer death rates. (see the full study here)
- A review of 10 trials involving more than 600,000 women discovered no evidence that mammography screening was effective on overall mortality. (source)
Breast cancer diagnosis is a delicate path that nobody should walk alone nor in the dark. Here are some recommended reads to get support information, testimonies from survivors and more:
- The Breast Cancer Survival Manual: A Step-by-Step Guide for Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer – 5th Edition – by John Link M.D.
- Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) during Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond – 1st Edition – by Marc Silver.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey: Surviving and Thriving During and After Your Diagnosis and Treatment – 1st Edition – by Dr. Julie Silver.
- Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors – 10th Anniversary Edition – by Barbara Delinsky.
- The Promise: Learn the benefits and risks associated with mammography and why the NHS has dismissed other available methods of medically recognised screening tests.
This article was originally published in: Collective Evolution