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Is the UK having better debate about mammography benefits and harms than US?

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We need more stories like the one in today’s New York Times that addresses legitimate questions about mammography now being raised in the UK.

It started with an article in the BMJ about the inadequacy of British informational brochures on mammography. Then a letter to The Times of London entitled, “Breast cancer screening peril: Negative consequences of the breast screening programme.”

Legitimate questions – and demands for better information to be given to women.

In the Times story I’m particularly struck by the 75-year old woman diagnosed with DCIS – which creates anxiety and confusion for thousands of women. She says: “You don’t know about all the uncertainty until you’re one of the unlucky ones.”

The story details leading experts’ questions about whether mammography has been oversold to American women as well.

Dartmouth’s Dr. Lisa Schwartz wraps up the Times article with this:

“You’re not crazy if you don’t get screened, and you’re not crazy if you do get screened. People can make their own decision, and we don’t need to coerce people into doing this. There is a real trade-off of benefits and harms. Women should know that.”

I can already hear the rabidly screen-everybody-all-the-time advocates screaming about this story. But before they scream too loudly, they should walk a mile in that 75-year old woman’s shoes.

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