According to a new study, routine mammography screening for breast cancer in women can result in more harm than benefits. The study was carried out by a team from the University of Southampton in England. The results are highlighted in the latest issue of British Medical Journal.
The study showed that routine mammography screenings can increase more false positive results, which eventually lead to unnecessary treatment. James Raftery and Maria Chorozoglou, both were among the research team, said that the harms of the routine mammography are more than its benefits during the first ten years. When screening continues, benefits start to increase. Yet, such benefits do not reach what experts usually expect at the beginning of the screening.
The Forrest Report, which was introduced in 1986, was predicting the number of surviving women, both screened and non-screened, in a 15-year period. The number of surviving women was estimated for each year. The results of that report encouraged the UK health authorities to go on with routine mammography screening for breast cancer. When the routine screening was applied, the authorities compared between its benefits and costs. The harms of screening were not accounted. However, since 1986, health professionals started to realize that routine screening has its harms.
The study carried out at the University of Southampton started to update the survival rates estimated by the Forrest Report by comparing the benefits and harms of routine mammography. The team reviewed data collected from 100,000 women; all were 50 or more years old. These women survived more than 20 years after being involved in the routine mammography screening program. The study indicated that false positive results and their following unnecessary treatments reduced the benefits of the routine screening by almost the half.