On the Agenda - Breast screening proves its worth

In a nutshell Breast cancer screening saves the lives of two women for each patient treated unnecessarily, new research has found. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London say these figures show mass screenings are worthwhile.

Screening: new research
Screening: new research

What is the background?

The research contradicts a report released last month that suggested screening made little difference to death rates and could cause healthy women to have breasts removed needlessly. The research released last week, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, set out to uncover how effective the programme was.

How was the research compiled?

One study predicted the number of women who would have died in the UK if the screening programme had not been introduced. Another study looked at the number of deaths from breast cancer in 80,000 women in Sweden, comparing those offered screening with those who were not. It found 5.7 deaths from cancer were prevented for every 1,000 women screened over 20 years in England. Overdiagnosis was only 2.3 per 1,000 women.

PR strategy

The in-house press team at Cancer Research UK sent out a press release to national, regional and broadcast media outlets. Researchers were available for interviews.

Media coverage

BBC Breakfast News, the Today programme, Sky News and Channel 4 News covered the story. The Daily Mail ran with the headline: 'Women are saved by NHS breast screening'.

- 125 women a day were diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK in 2006

- 300 men in the UK each year are diagnosed with breast cancer.

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