Rethinking Mammography: A Swiss Perspective on Breast Cancer Screening

In the realm of breast cancer screening, the Swiss approach to mammography challenges conventional wisdom, prompting a thoughtful reevaluation of established practices. In this insightful exploration, we delve into the Swiss perspective on breast cancer screening, as articulated by the Swiss Medical Board. Their comprehensive review, released in February 2014, questions the widely accepted belief in the efficacy and safety of mammograms as a primary tool for saving lives. Rethinking mammography and considering the implications of this paradigm-shifting perspective from the heart of Europe.

Complexities of Breast Cancer Screening

As we navigate the intricacies of the Swiss stance, we aim to shed light on the complexities surrounding breast cancer screening, encouraging a more informed and nuanced discourse on this critical aspect of women’s health.

For decades mammograms have been the definitive screening procedure for women’s breast cancer. Not anymore. In November of 2023, the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology published an online article from peer reviewed research showing that:

“women with a false-positive result had an 84% higher rate of breast cancer death than those without”

Mammograms produce way too many false positives, or women who are told they have breast cancer when they do not. This false positive leads to surgical and needle biopsies and other medical procedures that may actually induce cancer, not detect or prevent it.

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Low Risk to Cost Benefit Ratio for Mammograms

In a groundbreaking move, the Swiss Medical Board meticulously examined the existing evidence and, in February 2014, issued a report challenging the conventional wisdom that mammograms are safe and life-saving. Contrary to the prevailing mantra, their findings suggested that mammography might avert just one death for every 1000 women screened while potentially causing harm to many more. The Board emphasized the need for a comprehensive evaluation of mammography’s screening quality and advocated for women to be informed in a ‘balanced’ manner, considering both the benefits and harms of this widely-practiced screening. The risk to benefit to cost ratio for mammograms was very poor.

Key to the Swiss Medical Board’s recommendation against routine mammograms were several critical factors. Statistical data favoring mammography, often cited, originated from outdated clinical trials spanning more than five decades, with the most recent concluding in 1991. The landscape of breast cancer treatment has evolved significantly since then, rendering the modest benefits observed in those trials questionable in today’s context.

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Zero Impact on Breast Cancer Mortality

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal, spanning 25 years and involving 90,000 women, threw more weight behind the skepticism. Astonishingly, the study found that mammograms exerted zero impact on breast cancer mortality. Even more concerning was the revelation that 22% of detected cancers were over-diagnosed, leading to unnecessary and invasive treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Adding to the complexity, there exists a glaring discrepancy between public perception and reality. While women tend to believe that mammography prevents 80 deaths per 1000 screenings, the stark truth is that only one breast cancer death per 10,000 screenings can be averted.

The dilemma lies in the misinformation that surrounds mammography, perpetuated by the Pink Ribbon Industry, which insists that forgoing annual mammograms is dangerous and irresponsible. However, the emerging body of research suggests that the harm inflicted by routine mammograms might outweigh the benefits. The responsibility, therefore, is not solely on the women who make decisions based on the latest evidence but also on the industry that clings to outdated facts and dogma.

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The compelling evidence of harm and the absence of substantial benefits led the Swiss Medical Board to recommend dismantling mammography as a mass screening program. This marks a crucial step towards an objective evaluation free from political and industrial influence. It is our hope that this message resonates with other nations and policymakers, encouraging them to reassess the approach to breast cancer screening.

Rethinking Mammography: A Swiss Perspective on Breast Cancer Screening

While various screening options such as Ultrasound, MRI, and Breast Thermography exist, each with its pros and cons, the paramount decision for women is to shift the focus from early detection to prevention. In navigating the complex landscape of breast cancer screening, informed choices must be made available to all, empowering women to make decisions aligned with their well-being and the latest scientific understanding. Thermography is far more accurate than mammography and unlikely to do any harm.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.

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