Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View from Switzerland

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Whether or not to abolish mammography screening programs in Switzerland was the subject of a recent piece in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The commentary discusses the assessment the Swiss Medical Board undertook of mammography last year, in which the assessors became “increasingly concerned.”

The assessors noted that the ongoing debate on mammography “was based on a series of reanalyses of the same, predominantly outdated trials.”

They were also “struck by how nonobvious it was that the benefits of mammography screening outweighed the harms.” And, thirdly, they were “disconcerted by the pronounced discrepancy between women's perceptions of the benefits of mammography screening and the benefits to be expected in reality.”

Their report acknowledged that screening “might prevent about one death attributed to breast cancer for every 1000 women screened, even though there was no evidence to suggest that overall mortality was affected.”

Their report also “emphasized the harm — in particular, false positive test results and the risk of overdiagnosis."

Read "Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View from the Swiss Medical Board" by Nikola Biller-Andorno, M.D., Ph.D., and Peter Jüni, M.D. in the New England Journal of Medicine.

CWHN has examined the mammography debate numerous times over the past years, most recently in Cornelia Baines’ Guest Column, Unpacking the great mammography debate.