ITYS on breast cancer: Mammograms do not save lives

ITYS on breast cancer:
Mammograms do not save lives

For many years, I have been saying that people are misled by the false paradigm of “early detection of cancer leads to a cure.” This mantra has been especially touted for breast cancer, with women being urged to get mammograms early and often. Now I have support for my position from a distinguished doctor-Professor Michael Baum of University College Hospital, London.

“Thousands of women are being deceived by the national breast cancer program they are led to believe that early detection of cancer will save their breasts,” Professor Baum reported to an international breast cancer screening conference in Brussels. Up to half of all women with “early” breast cancer are having mastectomies that might later prove to be unnecessary, he said.

Dr. Baum stunned his audience of breast cancer specialists when he said, “One of the false promises of the NHS screening program is ‘come for screening, catch it early, and we will save your breast.’ This is not true.” He went on to add: “I think there is a deception going on.”

The problem comes with so-called ductal carcinomas, small, localized, very confined lesions that usually require no therapy. They can be closely monitored with no risk to the patient and may never have to be treated. Yet, women are misled and panicked into an unnecessary mastectomy.

As I have pointed out in previous reports, the very act of performing a mammogram may activate an otherwise quiescent and benign condition. I call it the “compression syndrome.” To get good pictures, the radiologist must compress the breast, and the more he squeezes, the better the pictures. If he misses a tumor, he is subject to litigation, or at least embarrassment, so he squeezes away.

“It seems to me,” Dr. Baum said, “to be a breach of trust. I am not for or against screening; I am for women having the right to make an informed choice. Women are socially engineered into thinking that breast screening is a good thing. I believe that if women were given the full story at least half would still opt for screening.”

Which means that half wouldn’t?

International Breast Cancer Screening Conference, Brussels, 2000