“The rest will undergo a decade’s worth of radiation for no medical benefit or worse, yet, undergo unnecessary treatments that can be harmful to eliminate tumours that would never have killed them” (Breast Cancer Tests, International Herald Tribute Editorial).
The editorial piece “Breast Cancer Tests” (October 28, 2011): the analysis – conducted by the researchers at Dartmouth – on the overall effectiveness of mammograms in the fight against breast cancer, is not the first that has contended that aggressive breast cancer screening may be more detrimental than beneficial. Besides the scientific limitations, other similar studies have pointed out that women are often emotionally swayed by survivors who argue anecdotally that routine mammograms saved their lives.
However, cognisant of the fact that mammograms remain crucial components in the entire prevention exercise; at the present moment, the key is to highlight the importance of doing personal checks at home between screenings, inculcating healthy practices, and heightening levels of comprehension about the cancer. Proper understanding of risk factors can dispel unfounded myths, and probably reduce anxiety levels.
In Singapore, the Breast Cancer Foundation – a large-scale public awareness and education campaign – have pushed for mammograms to be done annually; more significantly, these tests must be complemented by monthly breast self-examinations and yearly clinical breast examinations. The fact that if such information and knowledge, or the self-examinations, are disseminated responsibly and efficiently, the usefulness of mammograms would naturally be very much enhanced.