A 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. Cancer screening can find cancers which may not otherwise have been found in your lifetime. It is not possible to be sure which breast cancers found by screening will develop into a life-threatening cancer. Therefore, some women receive treatment that might not have been necessary in an effort to reduce their risk of a life-threatening cancer in the future.
Treating a cancer that won’t become a problem is called ‘overdiagnosis’. Some people say that diagnosing and treating cancers that won’t become a problem is harmful. However, at the moment there is no way to know which cancers will become a problem and which won’t.
It is important women have information to make informed decisions about their health. Weighing up the benefits and risks of having a breast screen will help you decide whether a breast screen is right for you.
Breast screens can detect most cancers early, even before they can be felt or noticed. If breast cancer is found early, it is more likely to be small, and successfully treated and the better your chance of surviving it.
‘It’s important to remember that at this time, a breast screen every two years is still the most proven effective method to detect breast cancer early and save women’s lives,’ said BreastScreen Victoria CEO Vicki Pridmore.
Links to other information on overdiagnosis