Informing women on breast cancer overdiagnosis

January 24, 2013

In a study exploring women's responses to being told about overdiagnosis in breast cancer screening, most women felt the information was important and could enable them to make choices.

The University of Sydney study, published in the today, also found that prior awareness of overdiagnosis was minimal and, although it is a complex and unfamiliar topic, most women were able to understand the issue. Providing women with the information may or may not influence their approach to screening, depending on the extent of the overdiagnosis and individual preferences.

"Currently around 1.7 million women are screened every two years for breast cancer in Australia and, as in other developed countries, hardly any information on overdiagnosis is provided," said lead author Jolyn Hersch, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health.

Overdiagnosis or overdetection is where a detects a cancer that would not have caused death or presented clinically during the woman's lifetime.

"The study aims to inform effective strategies for communication about overdetection to women considering screening."

It is important to note that while a majority of women in the groups expressed interest in being better informed about screening, many also wanted continuing encouragement to have screening.

"Also worth noting is that for some participants the information did not cause uncertainty about whether to be screened for . Instead the uncertainty was about whether to have the standard treatment for a screen-detected cancer or whether they should consider alternative approaches to treatment."

The qualitative study used focus groups to inform 50 women aged 40 to 79 from a range of about overdetection of cancer.

"Overdetection and the resulting overtreatment of an inconsequential disease are considered the most serious and important harms associated with early detection of cancer through screening but at this stage pinpointing what level of overdetection occurs remains a challenge," said Hersch.

Several recent studies have estimated an overdetection rate of between 19 and 35 percent, but estimates in other studies have been substantially lower or higher.

"Our study presented women with a range of estimates. At the highest estimate we presented (50 percent) some women said they may think twice about screening, whereas the lower (1-10 percent) and intermediate estimates (30 percent) had limited impact on 's enthusiasm for ."

Explore further: New study supports claim that breast screening may be causing more harm than good

More information: www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f158

Related Stories

New study supports claim that breast screening may be causing more harm than good

December 9, 2011
A new study published on bmj.com today supports the claim that the introduction of breast cancer screening in the UK may have caused more harm than good.

Mammograms: For 1 life saved, 3 women overtreated

October 29, 2012
(AP)—Breast cancer screening for women over 50 saves lives, an independent panel in Britain has concluded, confirming findings in U.S. and other studies.

Routine mammograms may result in significant overdiagnosis of invasive breast cancer

April 2, 2012
New Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) research suggests that routine mammography screening—long viewed as an essential tool in detecting early breast cancers—may in fact lead to a significant amount of overdiagnosis ...

Study: Breast cancer screening does save lives

September 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Women who undergo screening halve their risk of dying from breast cancer, a new study from the University of Melbourne has found. The study, published today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.