April 10th 2012, 18:32
Breast cancer is one of the major 'ladykillers' - and so governments want to be seen to do something, not least because it affects half the electorate. For the past 24 years - and at a total cost of lb2.3bn - women in the UK over the age of 50 have been invited to have a regular mammogram screening in order to detect early signs of breast cancer.
The genesis of the UK's mass screening programme was the Forrest report of 1986, headed by Prof Sir Patrick Forrest, who had been commissioned to answer two primary questions: would a mass screening programme benefit women and, if so, which technology should be employed? Forrest's answers to both were emphatic: mass screening for the over-50s would reduce deaths from breast cancer by a third and with "few harms", and, to the second, the best technology was x-ray mammography.