In 2013, the Swiss Medical Board, an independent health technology assessment initiative, was requested to prepare a review of mammography screening. The team of medical professionals included a medical ethicist, a clinical epidemiologist, a pharmacologist, an oncologic surgeon, a nurse scientist, a lawyer, and a health economist. Two of those members, Nikola Biller-Andorno, M.D. Ph. D. and Peter Juni, M.D, opened up about the project in the New England Journal of Medicine.
They said: “As we embarked on the project, we were aware of the controversies that have surrounded mammography screening for the past 10-15 years. When we received the available evidence and contemplated its implications in detail, however, we became increasingly concerned.”
In 2016, it is estimated that approximately 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States as well as 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Mammograms continue to be touted as the most effective screening tool we have today to find breast cancer.
However, these two doctors were shocked to discover that there is minimal evidence that actually indicates that the benefits of mammography screening outweigh the harms.
“The relative risk reduction of approximately 20 percent in breast-cancer mortality associated with mammography that is currently described by most expert panels came at the price of a considerable diagnostic cascade, with repeat mammography, subsequent biopsies, and over-diagnosis of breast cancers — cancers that would never have become clinically apparent.”