Wednesday, January 28, 2009
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The U.K. breast cancer screening information leaflet, "Breast Screening: the Facts," downplays the risks of screening to the extent that it cannot be relied upon to help a patient make a genuinely informed decision, according to an article published online Jan. 27 in BMJ.
Peter C. Gotzsche, M.D., director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues examined the content of the leaflet, and found that its authoritative tone and bold statements about the advantages of breast screening are not counterbalanced by information about the harms of mammography.
In particular, the leaflet does not mention the risk of unnecessary treatment of lesions that are not harmful, despite the fact that the odds of being over-diagnosed as a result of mammography are 10 times higher than the odds of avoiding death due to breast cancer, the authors state. The leaflet also plays down the risks of a false positive diagnosis and the risks presented by radiotherapy, they add.
"There are no reservations in the leaflet about screening older women, only a scare that the breast cancer risk increases with age, although it has not been shown that screening these women decreases their risk of dying from breast cancer," Gotzsche and colleagues write. "The one-sided propaganda about breast screening is a global phenomenon that has resulted in misconceptions about its effects."
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