There are so many things to say that are wrong about the new Breast Health UK service that I’d need all night to write about them.
Let me concentrate on just one thing: no, not their offer to perform breast examination on the asymptomatic woman and then teach them how to do it (although it’s tempting to point out the evidence being very much against either) but instead their offer of infra red breast scans on asymptomatic women who don’t fall within the age for the UK Breast Screening programme.
They say: “This examination is recommended to all women over the age of 18 including women previously diagnosed with cancer, with implants, and especially women with dense or cystic breasts or family history of breast cancer.”
and “Digital Infrared BreastScan is unique among breast cancer screening, in that it is the only one with prognostic qualities, i.e. predictive ability. That being the case, it is inappropriate to measure specificity, or false positives, except in a very general way.”
Hmm. They also quote this paper as defence saying that it was “A third paper1 recently reported a 97% breast cancer detection rate using Digital Infrared BreastScan.”
This paper did not look at screening well women with no symptoms with their scanner. It took women who were already going to have a breast biopsy on the basis of an ultrasound or mammogram. One cannot take that information and apply it to Asymptomatic women. Indeed, the paper shows that the test was not good for specificity – it was not reliable at detecting a benign lesion well.
They say that ” Digital Infrared BreastScan is completely non-invasive and poses no risks whatsoever to the woman” but don’t mention false positives or false negatives and the fall-out from these.
I can’t resist saying something about the ‘1 in 9 women’ get breast cancer – that’s LIFETIME risk you get when you are 85. Most women don’t live that long.