Breast Cancer Health & Breast Cancer Symptoms: Does Breast Cancer Screening Save Lives?

Being on the alert for breast cancer symptoms early is important, as is knowing the limitations of breast cancer screening.


  • a lump that is single, firm, and most often painless
  • veins on the skin surface become more prominent on one breast
  • a nipple becomes inverted, develops a rash, changes in texture, or has a discharge
  • skin on the breast or underarm swells and looks unusual
  • a depression in the breast surface
  • with inflammatory breast cancer a breast becomes red, swollen, and warm with no lumps.

Often breast cancer symptoms such as lumpiness is a false alarm because only a small percentage of lumps are malignant.

How Good Is Breast Cancer Screening?

"Current enthusiasm for screening is based more on fear, false hope and greed than on evidence" according to Dr. Cornelia Baines, professor emeritus department of health sciences at the University of Toronto, and breast cancer survivor.

Recognizing breast cancer's symptoms is important because screening-mammography is not without risks and limitations.

  • It is not the panacea it was hoped to be for early detection of breast cancer symptoms and saving lives.
  • The American College of Physicians has in fact challenged the widely accepted recommendation that all women undergo annual mammograms, warning that in premenopausal women it probably CAUSES MORE HARM THAN GOOD.


  • With women from 40 to 49 there is evidence of a mortality paradox: For these women the death rate soars after screening begins – in premenopausal women, three years after screening begins, the chance of death from breast cancer is double that of unscreened women.

European research recently generated headlines there, including: “Breast Screening Concerns Raised,” and “Researchers Question Benefits of Breast Cancer Screening.”

  • A new study published by the Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, a respected independent health-care research group, has pointed out the shortcomings of screening-mammography for finding breast cancer symptoms.

Lead author Peter Gozsche, director of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, found that:

  • Women who undergo breast cancer screening are only 15% less likely to die of breast cancer than those who do not. That does not sound too bad, but there are down sides too.

False Positives and Over treatment

Dr. Gozsche also noted that women who undergo regular mammograms for breast cancer health and are diagnosed with breast cancer have a significant risk of being treated for the condition even in those instances where it does not pose a risk to their health.

  • These false positives, which label women as cancer patients, would not occur in the absence of breast cancer screening.

In other words, the researcher said, while screening does reduce breast cancer deaths by a small percentage, it can cause harm through over diagnosis and over treatment.

Dr. Gozsche showed that for every 2,000 women who undergo mammography over a 10-year period, one case of potentially deadly breast cancer will be detected and successfully treated.

  • During that same period of screening for breast cancer, 10 women will be treated for cancer UNNECESSARILY, and another 200 women will receive FALSE POSITIVE results to their teats.

Is that trade-off worth it? Certainly, if you are the woman saved from a lethal cancer.

Even if you are a woman who has a false positive of false breast cancer, which can be a dramatic life-changing event, you may still feel that the risk is worth it.

The Experts on Does Screening Save Lives?

Dr. Barnett Kramer, assistant director of the US office of Disease Protection, contends that breast cancer screening hasn't fully lived up to its purpose of saving lives through early detection of breast cancer symptoms.

  • He points out that the yearly number of cases of advanced cancer has remained unchanged despite the fact many women get screened.
  • That means that screening mammography might be missing some fast-growing tumors that only get diagnosed at a late stage.

"If you see only an increase in early stage breast cancer, but no decrease in late-stage, you have to be worried about over diagnosis," Kramer said, adding that could be potentially dangerous in rare instances.

Some women with slow-growing breast cancers that are not life-threatening end up undergoing risky treatment, he explained. Yet they would have been destined to die of something else, like cardiac disease.

  • Even early detection doesn't guarantee a cure, Kramer suggests.
  • That's because a cancer might have spread microscopically at a clinically early stage, and it's metastatic disease that kills.

One way to prove that breast cancer screening works is to show it has lowered the death rate. Although that's happened with breast cancer, he attributes the drop mostly to systemic therapy with Tamoxifen.

Screening - Mammography Not What It Promised

Dr. Cornelia Baines, a breast cancer survivor, has published some of the most important research on breast cancer health screening. In the British Medical Journal she states that there are three possible outcomes of screening:

  1. “The cat is already out of the bag” when cancer is detected by screening, and these women would have died if they had not been screened, and they will still die. Most breast cancer deaths fall into this category.
  2. Death is prevented because a lethal cancer is detected before it can spread, and this represents a risk reduction of 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
  3. Detection of breast cancers that will never be fatal, and this is the majority of cases of “ductal carcinoma in situ” and “node negative” breast cancers.

Many of the X-rays give unclear results, so women need to undergo a biopsy, a surgical procedure, to determine if the breast cancer symptom or lump is benign or cancerous.

  • Most of the time it is nothing, but the process can be traumatizing.

Being forewarned of these shortcomings – the possibility of false positives and over treatment – can help women be realistic about finding breast cancer symptoms.

Chemo Breast Cancer Health:

We hope that you have been inspired by our postings for breast cancer health.

Following are links for chemo breast cancer help: breast cancer nutrition --  supplements and foods that prevent breast cancer.

Here are tips for your breast cancer diet as well as for breast cancer nutrition supplements to get you through chemo breast cancer treatment without worries!

You may ASK US about:

  • Immunotherapy supplements to help with chemo breast cancer recovery, even with serious cancers such as breast cancer spread to liver.

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