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NHS Treating Breast Cancer Patients Too Readily

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A study in Sweden has suggested that the mammogram programme in the UK could be causing women to receive unnecessary treatments for cancers that would otherwise have regressed without problem.

The study by the Nordic Cochrane Collaboration looked at the amount of cancers diagnosed in two groups of women. Of the women, aged from 40-69, some were screened two yearly whilst the others were screened six yearly.

It was expected that the number of cancers found would be similar over the two groups, however the finding showed that over 30% more tumours were discovered in the group that were screened more regularly.

The authors Per-Henrik Zahl et al explain that is is common for some cancers to disappear or regress, “If you go back in history there are many examples of breast cancer that have regressed… People usually don’t publish cancers that go into regression.”

They explain that in current times, evidence of regressed cancers is difficult to find as doctors treat anyone diagnosed with cancer to avoid any liability.

The researchers suggest that it could be more cost effective to delay surgery and offer a biopsy and drugs whilst remaining in close contact with healthcare professionals to assess whether the cancerous tumour can stop growing or remove itself.

Mette Kalager of the Harvard School of Public Health agrees that the evidence put forward in the research is convincing given that the findings could not be attributed to predisposition to breast cancer, the sensitivity of screening or attendance at screenings.

She added that ‘watchful waiting’ is already in practice with cases of cancer of the prostate which means, “surgery does not take place until it is definitely needed.”

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