Breast Cancer screening

Oxford Team members:

Alex Astley (editor)

Sophie Caseby (editor)

Aishah Prastow

Yasmine Bark

Kritica Dwivedi

James Whitehouse

Breast Cancer is an emotive topic, it is the most common cancer in the UK with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed over their lifetime. In 2013 alone 53,000 women were diagnosed which indicates just how many people across the UK are affected by Breast Cancer. As with many cancers if diagnosed early the  chances of survival are much greater, indeed for Breast Cancer survival rates when diagnosed at the earliest stage is almost 100% compared with just 15% for diagnosis at the latest stage. 

 

To combat this problem and to try and ensure more cases were diagnosed at the earlier stages the government launched a screening program in 1988 for all women between 50 and 70. The age range has since been extended to between 47 and 73. The program has been popular with around 75% of the eligible women taking advantage of the program.

 

However the program is not without critics, many believe it to be inefficient. The screening is not 100% accurate and leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment which are not only costly but can be harmful to the individuals concerned. More importantly when randomised trials have been conducted, assessing the mortality reduction due to the screening, although they find a mortality decline, in many studies it is not statistically significant. 

In addition the breast cancer screening program is expensive. The government will generally only spend £30,000 to gain an extra QALY; however many estimates have put the cost of screening at far higher. These studies have proved controversial and there has been no consensus on the findings. Our research will therefore focus on the cost of the screening program and whether it can be justified.