Support Mammography Despite Possibility of ‘Over-Diagnosis’

Target: England Department of Health: Secretary of State and Health Ministers

Goal: Continue support and funding for mammograms despite the possibility of “over-diagnosis.”

The BBC recently ran an article discussing the controversy surrounding mammography and the issue of “over-diagnosis,” or, women being treated for tumors which may or may not have turned problematic or cancerous had they been left alone. Women are encouraged to begin regular mammograms when they reach their 40s (per the Susan G. Koman Foundation) or their 50s (per the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) so that they may catch any signs of breast cancer early and discuss the best course of action with their health care provider. The issue is that many mammograms catch tumors that are not yet cancerous and there is no way of knowing if they will ever become cancerous, and that obtuse “unknown” leads many doctors to recommend and many women to follow through with having surgery, hormone therapy, radiation, or chemotherapy that is quite possibly unnecessary. Amid the current attack on women’s healthcare and reproductive rights that is currently raging here in the U.S., it is imperative that we continue to support and provide funding for mammograms that do, despite any over-diagnosis and over-treatment, catch breast cancer early and aid in saving the lives of thousands of women. Sign this petition today and show that you support the benefits of mammography.

The BBC article stated that “screening saved 1,307 lives every year in the UK, but led to 3,971 women having unnecessary treatment,” which is misleading. Using these numbers, the statement should read that screening saved 1,307 lives every year and led to 3,971 women making the decision to treat potentially cancerous tumors. Screening (mammograms) did not lead to anything other than an x-ray showing a picture of a tumor. These women then made a decision with their doctors on how best to proceed. It seems so dangerous while funding is being denied for centers in the U.S. that provide basic health care for women (breast cancer screening being just one of the services) that any article should run with misleading language about the potential harm that screenings cause.

While some women may regret going ahead with treatment, sometimes having part or all of their breast(s) removed, the key issue is that they made the decision. They had a choice. Yes, doctors should always provide women with all of the information on treatment that is available to them, and women should know that the option to have no treatment is also available to them, but without the mammogram screenings more women would die from breast cancer than already do. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lives. More than 11,000 women die each year from breast cancer. If mammogram screenings can prevent 1,307 deaths from breast cancer, then those numbers alone prove that the benefits of being screened far outweigh the potential for over-diagnosis. Please, continue to support funding for mammograms as an essential part of women’s health care.


Dear England Department of Health: Secretary of State and Health Ministers,

The BBC recently ran an article, “Breast Screening Advice Updated Amid Controversy Over Tests,” that has the potential to lead to a dangerous backlash in women’s reproductive rights and choices both in the UK and in the U.S. The article pointed out that nearly 4,000 women have unnecessary treatment that results from mammograms, a statement which is simply not true. These women had a choice and chose to treat tumors which had the potential for becoming cancerous and causing health problems. The mammogram had no part in this decision other than showing the tumor on an x-ray. To say that any fault lay with the screening itself is misleading and dangerous, particularly amid the current attack on women’s reproductive rights which is raging in the United States.

If a mammogram screening played a part in saving just one woman’s life from breast cancer, that is benefit enough. The potential backlash that could be caused from not providing mammogram screenings could lead to thousands of more deaths a year, added onto the 11,000 yearly deaths that already occur from breast cancer. The issue that is at stake is that these women had a choice which they exercised. That choice should never be compromised. Some regret choosing treatment, but more are happy with their decision to treat early a tumor that potentially could have become cancerous. This early treatment is where modern medicine has led us. It factors hugely into saving lives. Do not compromise early detection in mammograms, and do not compromise a woman’s choice to partake in early treatment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Abigail Guzman via Flickr

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