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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS - 29/1/09

Challenge to breast screening

Thursday January 29th, 2009

Information given to women about breast screening is "one-sided propaganda", an expert claimed yesterday.

Leaflets sent to British women fail to set out the risks involved in undertaking the procedure, according to a European expert.

The main risk is that healthy women may suffer harm through over-diagnosis and over-treatment, according to Peter Gøtzsche, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark, writing in the British Medical Journal.

There is also a risk if women undergo radiotherapy, he said.

He writes: "The one-sided propaganda about breast screening is a global phenomenon that has resulted in misconceptions about its effects.

"New evidence that demonstrated less benefit than what was previously thought, and substantially more harm, has largely been ignored."

The Nordic Cochrane Centre says it has developed its own "impartial" leaflet which sets out the benefits and risks in simple numbers. The leaflet argues that many more women receive unnecessary breast surgery from screening than are saved from dying from cancer.

They call for the responsibility for running programmes to be separated from the production of information leaflets - and to ensure that leaflets are carefully tested among GPs and the general public.

Tags: Cancer | Europe | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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