Breast Cancer

Important facts about Breast Cancer

  1. Breast cancer screening programmes have not reduced breast cancer mortality rates.
  2. ​For the vast majority of women, the lifetime risk of dying from breast cancer is about 3%-4%.
  3. Women have more than a 50% chance of surviving breast cancer once it is diagnosed.

For more information on the failure of breast cancer screening programmes to reduce the mortality rate read Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy, by Peter Gotzsche. Radcliffe Publishing 2012.


Important facts about Breast Cancer screening

If 2000 women are screened regularly for 10 years:

  • 1 woman will avoid dying from breast cancer
  • 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed without screening, will have breast cancer diagnosed and be treated unnecessarily:
    • 4 of these women will have a breast removed,
    • 6 will receive breast conserving surgery,
    • and most will receive radiotherapy;
  • 1800 will be alive after 10 years; without screening 1799 will be alive.

Of 2000 women (in Europe) who participate in 10 rounds of screening:

  • 500 will be recalled for additional investigations because cancer is suspected;
  • about 125 will have a biopsy
  • 200 will experience psychological distress for several months related to a false positive finding.

Screening can provide false reassurance. Up to 50% of cancers among women in screening programmes are detected between two screening rounds, and these interval cancers are the most dangerous. Mammography is painful for about a third of women.

The information above is contained in a pamphlet that provides accurate information on the benefits and risks of breast cancer screening and can be accessed at:

Cancer Screening distorts diagnosis of cancer

At the beginning of 2013, leading American cancer scientists called for a set of changes to deal with the problem of over-diagnosis and overtreatment caused by cancer screening.


More from Auckland Women’s Health Council:

Mammography Wars

More trouble with BreastScreen Aotearoa

Cochrane Review

Important Issues in Cancer Screening

The Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer

The Breast Cancer Genes

Rethinking Breast Cancer Treatment