A very small number of cancers do not lead to symptoms or death. People with these cancers won’t know they have cancer unless they are tested.
A downside of population screening is that cancers that won’t go on to become a problem will be found and treated. There is no way to know which cancers will become a problem and which won’t.
Treating a cancer that won’t become a problem is called ‘overdiagnosis’. Without treatment, breast cancer will usually lead to illness and death. We welcome and encourage research that may soon help us to distinguish between life-threatening cancers and those that won’t cause later problems.
For now, regular breast screening is the best way to reduce your chance of dying from breast cancer
- Cancer Australia's Position Statement on overdiagnosis from mammographic screening
- Over diagnosis is an element of screening program considerations in the Australian Government's Population Based Screening Framework.