A leter to the London Times has lead British medical authorities at least to plan to rewrite leaflets that give women ‘the standard advice’ about mammograms. The letter, whose lead signer is apparently a very distinguished professor emeritus of surgery, mentions a forthcoming study that finds that “if 2,000 women are screened regularly for ten years, one will benefit from the screening, as she will avoid dying from breast cancer. At the same time, ten healthy women will, as a consequence, become “cancer patients” and will be treated unnecessarily.” The letter also asserts that about 50% of the genuinely positive cases detected by mammograms are too slow growing to be worth treating.
This is worrying from a number of points of view. Mammograms are promoted much more aggressively in the US, and I don’t think I have ever heard of a positive result that led to no action (though of course I could just not be well informed).
The second link above will take you to a fairly detailed report on the story.
The idea of a slow-growing tumor is sometimes cited in prostate cases, but it is worth asking whether it is something women might be told in cases of breast cancer.