Mammographic screening has been used for years to supposedly detect the early stages of breast cancer. But a committee of US cancer experts – the Physician Data Query (PDQ) board – now says there is insufficient evidence to show that mammograms can prevent breast cancer deaths.
This has prompted the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Cancer Society and American College of Preventive Medicine, among others, to rise to the defence of the mammogram, declaring that the procedure may not be perfect, but it has contributed significantly to the decline in breast cancer death.
Other authorities, such as the National Cancer Institute, waded into what became a raging debate on US television and newspapers throughout January and February.
However, rather than putting mammograms in the spotlight of a media circus, all this effort might have been better spent carrying out a major reassessment of the evidence surrounding mammography effectiveness (BMJ, 2002; 324: 432).