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Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening programs have the potential to catch breast cancer at a less advanced stage, with a better chance of survival. However, experience with screening programmes in a number of countries, show screening is not without risks. For example in the UK screening women aged 50 for the next 20 years, for every 10,000 women screened approximately 43 deaths will be prevented, however 129 will be overdiagnosed (Independent UK Panel on Breast Cancer Screening, 2011). That translates to 1 breast cancer death being prevented for about every 3 overdiagnosed cases identified and treated. Overdiagnosis is where screening identifies a tumour, which is then treated (possibly with surgery, radiotherapy and medication), but which would otherwise have remained undetected for the rest of the woman’s life, without causing illness, if it had not been detected by screening.

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