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News1995September › Mammograms: up to no good › September 1995

Mammograms: up to no good

Mammogram screening programmes should be abandoned because of the unnecessary harm they cause and the cost of them, senior medical researchers have recommended

Mammogram screening programmes should be abandoned because of the unnecessary harm they cause and the cost of them, senior medical researchers have recommended.

They have discovered that about 5 per cent of mammogram test results are either suspicious, or are false positives indicating a cancer when there is none which causes unnecessary worry, and sometimes surgery. The test also fails to detect about 15 per cent of cancers.

The cost of one life "saved" is $1.2m (lb558,000), which is unacceptable when public health resources are stretched, say the researchers from the University of British Colombia in Vancouver.

Their findings fly in the face of medical and popular belief that the test is worthwhile, and is a major life-saver. This view was based on the earliest trials into mammography, which indicated that the screening test could reduce mortality in women over 50 by 30 per cent (The Lancet, July 1, 1995).


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