A Swedish county that stepped out of line by ending breast screening was quickly forced to reintroduce the procedure following immense pressure from the medical establishment.
The councillors of Alvsborg County Council felt the costs of a mass screening programme far outweighed any benefits, and that the money saved could be better spent helping those diagnosed with cancer.
The council voted on the ban last January, following advice from the county’s chief physician, Dr Christer Enkvist, who felt that the advantages of screening are “extremely marginal” and can lead to unnecessary surgery.
Enkvist was pilloried in the Swedish press, and doctors and opposition political parties launched a campaign to have the decision reversed. One leading female politician even posed topless to give the campaign greater publicity.
The Alvsborg councillors commented about their decision: “We realized it was a mistake.” But was the mistake more political than medical?