Whether breast cancer screening does more harm than good has been a hotly debated subject for quite some time. In 2014, the Swiss Medical Board published a report recommending that no new systematic mammography screening programs be introduced. At ThermApproach, we believe education is your first line of defense. How and why the Swiss Medical Board came to their conclusions about breast cancer and mammograms is interesting.
The team of experts on the board included among others a medical ethicist, a clinical epidemiologist, a pharmacologist, an oncologic surgeon, a nurse scientist, a lawyer, and a health economist.
“Systematic mammography screening” is the term generally used to describe the serial radiological examination of women within the framework of a screening program whereby all women in a specific age group are invited to an X-ray examination of their breasts which is not conducted by a doctor. At the time, Switzerland had in place a comprehensive screening program which was offered to all women aged from 50 to 69.
The board spent twelve months reviewing all of the available evidence and the implications. Accordingly, they were aware of the controversies that had surrounded mammographys for the past 10 to 15 years. When they reviewed the available evidence, and contemplated its implications in detail, they became increasingly concerned about the widely believed notion that mammograms were safe and capable of saving lives.
In fact, they concluded that statistics clearly indicated that mammograms appeared to be preventing only 1 death per 1,000 women screened, and actually caused harm to many more. Their thorough review left them no choice but to recommend that ‘no new systematic mammography screening programs be introduced, and that a time limit should be placed on existing programs.’
The subject of whether breast cancer screening in women with no symptoms has been questioned by many industry experts over the years and this revelation from the Swiss seems to prove that it no longer makes sense.
When reviewing the data in regard 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 repeat 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.
At ThermApproach, we believe there is a better way. Thermography offers the opportunity of earlier detection of breast disease than has not been possible through breast self-examination, or mammography alone.