? Mammo screening resulting in 'unnecessary treatment' ?


Having seen the papers today (Tues 3-04-2012) regarding screening resulting in unnecessary treatment, telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9181445/Breast-cancer-screening-resulting-in-unnecessary-treatment.html, I just don’t understand what they mean by ‘unnecessary treatment’, or is this referring to, maybe, what could be considered to be unnecessary investigations?

Surely, if biopsies are examined, as presumably all suspicious lesions would be, and consequent treatment based on the findings, ‘treatment’ wouldn’t be offered to those who didn’t need it.

Clearly, it wouldn’t be good for people to go through the stress/trauma of treatment for breast cancers if it wasn’t actually warrented.

As some of you, I was picked up following a routine 3-yrly screening mammogram, biopsied and found to have ILC but only Stage 2, with no spread. Even with the ultrasound in her hand, the doctor could still not feel my cancer. So, without this regular screening, it wouldn’t have been detected until who knows when. Having had the core biopsies examined, I can only consider the surgery and rads are not ‘unnecessary treatment’.

I’m thinking I’m missing something here … Maybe I’ve not seen through the ‘sensationalism’ of this newspaper article!

I’d be interested to hear how others interpretted this article.

Also, having read this thread, share.breastcancercare.org.uk/forum/yearly-mammograms-for-40-50-year-olds-new-research-t34842.html. it all sounds rather contradictory.

I’m confused!!!

I’m very keen to hear people’s views


Hi Choc drop- this is an issue which is being increasingly debated and there has already been a lot of discussion and comment about it on these forums. (and elsewhere)

Understandably,many people with BC feel very strongly about screening and its efficacy. I fall into the sceptical camp even though my own Grade 3 BC was detected by routine mammography.

There have there were at least 4 threads on this topic in the last 6 months or so: unfortunately not being very computer savvy I can’t actually direct you to them- but I’m sure someone else will!

At present there IS a huge amount lot of treatment which would probably have been unnecessary: unfortunately once people are told they have a cancerous condition-DCIS - even though it might never progress or spread) understandably, most of them opt for treatment- even if it means radical surgery etc etc. Some of us think that research evidence indicates that the many, many thousands currently invested in routine mammography might be better spent … …

Hi Choc drop

I’ve puzzled over the various articles that have been published on this subject since I had my dx last March, and I assume (but it may be a big assumption) that they are talking about DCIS. The article refers to “benign cancers” which must be a contradiction in terms, so I’m thinking they mean non-invasive cancers. When I was diagnosed with DCIS I was told my options were various types of surgery/reconstruction and I pointed out an option was surely do nothing. My BCN agreed and we then went through the pros and cons of all the options before I decided to go for mx and immediate reconstruction. I knew that DCIS might never become invasive, but it wasn’t a risk I was prepared to take. As it happens they found a small Grade 1 invasive tumour behind the DCIS. They also found further DCIS close to the chest wall so I had rads to deal with that. But again I had the option not to have rads and I weighed up the risks and benefits before making my decision. So in terms of this study I may have had “unnecessary treatment”, but I am pretty glad I did.

I shudder when I see articles like this in case they make women feel they have put themselves through treatment when they didn’t need to do so. Thank goodness for sites like this and Macmillan where these things can be put into perspective. Women need to be able to make properly informed choices about treatment. I’ll never regret having my mx, but I have made a choice in consultation with my onc to stop taking Letrozole because I believe the side effects outweigh the small additional benefit in preventing a recurrance or a new primary. My onc showed me the stats using an on-line calculator and let me make the decision, which I felt I had sufficient information to be able to do.


Hi all
Just to say, i would still be walking around with my BC, if there were no mammo screening. It does not matter what type you have got, if something shows up or u can feel something that does not show then other treatments are out there. now i keep wondering if all i have been through was necessary, but know it really was, but it puts it in your mind, what if…
going for my first yearly mammo this afternoon and it is nececessary. xxxx
best wishes to all xxx

Feel a bit up tight today xxx

Hi Gardenparty

Good luck this afternoon. I’ve just had mine and it’s a big load off my mind.

Not surprised you are feeling up tight!


Hi everybody,
If there is something there that shouldnt be then it needs to be delt with !!! With the state of the NHS I am sure they wouldnt treat if it wasnt necessary - maybe I have missed the point also but if I hadnt had a mammogram how much further would my cancer have gone ??

Love to all xx

Hi ladies

Thinking of you, GardenParty. It must be an anxious time again.

Foxy, pleased to hear you are so much relieved. Also, well done for taking the approach you did, talking to your BCN and Onc regarding choice of treatment.

Thanks for all the comments. I read with a lot of interest. Reading your comments has helped me see it a bit more clearly.

My apologies for not checking back re previous threads but, as this was in the Telegraph only yesterday, I assumed it was fresh news. I did read one thread, of not too long ago which I linked, regarding bringing the age down to 40yrs to start screening and felt they are all so contradictory.

I presume these types of articles will continue. Fortunately, I wasn’t getting stressed about the article, just confused! (not difficult!!!)

Good to hear from you all

You may want to watch Prof Michael Baum’s lecture on the Breast Screening on You Tube. It explains the data very well. Here is a link to one of the previous threads on the topic

Hi Everyone!
I was in a similar situation to you. Diagnosed with DCIS, intermediate and high grade. As the patch of DCIS was over 3cm, MX was recommended. I’m sure it is the treatment of “non-invasive” DCIS that is causing all the commotion in the press. I spoke to breast cancer care on the phone shortly after I was diagnosed and she explained how " you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t" take action with DCIS because no one really knows until you’ve had surgery what’s really going on. As it happens, they found a small invasive tumour (only about 5mm) hidden behind the DCIS after my surgery. Literally every woman I have spoken to has said the same. Thank goodness you had the surgery! Everyone has also said, why would you take the risk of DCIS becoming invasive? What worries me greatly is that women diagnosed with “non-invasive” DCIS will start to believe it is just that - non-invasive and will always remain so. Or they’ll think it’s the same as benign tumours. DCIS IS non-invasive, but let’s not forget - it IS cancer!