Breast screen risks 'underplayed' in patient leaflets

Risks of breast screening are underplayed in patient information leaflets, researchers argue in the BMJ.

The UK leaflet ‘Breast screening: the facts’ is ‘inadequate as a basis for informed consent’, Peter Gotzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark and his team argue.

‘No mention is made of the major harm of screening—that is, unnecessary treatment of harmless lesions that would not have been identified without screening,’ they say. ‘It is in violation of guidelines and laws for informed consent not to mention this common harm, especially when screening is aimed at healthy people.’

The likelihood of being over-diagnosed after mammography is 10 times larger than the likelihood of avoiding death from breast cancer, the researchers point out.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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