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Originally published May 18 2009

Breast Cancer Screening Not as Accurate or Life-Saving as Widely Believed

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The British National Health Service has been accused of promoting the benefits of breast cancer screening without warning women of the risks, in a letter signed by 23 people and published in The Times. The letter came in response to the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Center of Breast Cancer and Screening, published in the British Medical Journal.

The Cochrane study concluded that the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening are far more complex than the picture presented by the NHS.

"The [NHS informational] leaflet has the authoritative title 'Breast Screening: The Facts' suggesting that the information can be trusted ... [but] it is inadequate as a basis for informed consent," lead researcher Peter Gotzsche said.

The researchers found that for every 2,000 women receiving regular breast cancer screening for 10 years, one life would be saved. At the same time, 10 women would receive unnecessary breast cancer treatment, including radiation, chemotherapy, and partial or full breast removal. Two hundred women, or one in 10, would receive a false positive on at least one test, although this would be discovered before serious treatment began.

The study also uncovered that while one in five breast cancers diagnosed is a non-invasive variety called ducal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) the NHS literature does not mention DCIS at all.

According to letter signatory Michael Baum, there is no evidence that the increase in breast cancer screening over recent years has actually led to lives being saved.

"The number of invasive breast cancers being detected is not falling, despite the number of cases picked up by screening rising dramatically," Baum said. "You would expect serious cancers to drop because the early detection means the DCIS cases are not progressing. It just doesn't add up."

Signatory and Minister of Parliament Margaret McCartney called for a reevaluation of government screening recommendations.

"It is complacent and arrogant to think we should carry on regardless with screening services," she said. "It is time we had a complete rethink."

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