Despite 25 years of determined efforts made by the NHS to reduce the rate of breast cancer deaths and new breast cancer cases by detecting the disease early with mammography, breast cancer cases have risen to epidemic proportions. It is now estimated that one in every eight women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 12,000 will die.
This documentary investigates the world of routine breast screening (mammography) from its conception in 1987 to the modern day. We examine the benefits and risks associated with mammography and ask why the NHS has dismissed other available methods of medically recognised screening tests.
Our investigations reveal that grave concerns were raised by senior NHS personnel from the very beginning of routine mammography but ignored by those in authority. It was decided early on by the NHS national screening committee that women should NOT be informed of the known dangers of mammography. This meant that no woman could exercise her ethical and legal right to informed consent.
While mammography is still promoted by radiographers, radiologists and the government as the gold standard of breast screening, there is a growing concern that it may not be fulfilling its promise.
As new evidence emerges highlighting the failings of mammography, a growing number of eminent doctors and medical researchers are voicing their concerns. Some are warning that the procedure can actually cause harm and induce cancer, the very disease it is meant to prevent. Others point out that the rates of over-diagnosis are unacceptable as it creates cancer patients out of healthy women who are diagnosed with a condition called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS).
DCIS is not a cancer and may never develop into a cancer, but surprisingly the NHS recommendation of treatment for DCIS is lumpectomy or mastectomy usually followed by radiotherapy and possible long-term treatment with drugs.