Advice given by the government about breast cancer screening is being changed following reports that thousands of women have had unnecessary surgery. Dr Joan Austoker, an expert who is writing the government advice for the NHS' breast cancer screening programme, said one type of cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ would not even be detected clinically.
"We want to make sure that all the risks of breast screening are referred to in appropriate detail," Dr Austoker, director of the primary care education research group at Oxford University, told The Sunday Times. "Much of the ductal carcinoma in situ diagnosed will never surface clinically. Therefore it constitutes over-diagnosis — that is, you are diagnosing something that would not have become an issue."
Research released earlier in the year showed that while screening may save one life in 2000, it also meant ten healthy women were treated unnecessarily. This has prompted a rethink of screening guidelines.
"We are currently undertaking a review of the leaflet which is sent with all invitations for breast screening in England, to accommodate recent changes in evidence that have come to light," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health.