What does “for earlier detection” mean?

It’s used here, on Breastlight’s home page. If you search for them on Google, it comes up; “Breastlight TM; breast exam, breast checking, breast screening..”

I’d like to know what kinds of things come to mind when we are told this device is for ‘earlier detection’.



( I know what I think, but I’d like to know what others think.)


8 Responses to “What does “for earlier detection” mean?”

  1. The Jobbing Doctor May 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Since when has shining a light through your breasts been of any use at all.

    Disgraceful exploitative rubbish.


  2. Jane May 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I don’t think I’ll bother getting a “Breastlight”. I’ve got a rather powerful torch I use when I walk my dogs in winter. Perhaps I can get my husband to shine it on my breasts later. I’m sure he will enjoy that.

  3. Derek Tunnicliffe May 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Instead of a scan, it’s a scam. Some advertising ‘executive’ had the bright (sorry about the pun) idea that this “gadget” could be sold to those scared enough and rich enough to afford to buy it, that they could assuage their fears in a click.

  4. AP May 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Earlier detection, presumably making people think of earlier treatment, and greater chance of cure.

    Of course normal people wouldn’t have a clue what is normal or not, and most likely panic at everything an anything.

    People willing to spend money on a glorified torch….all the more so.

  5. igb May 14, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    You don’t need to engage in hermeneutics, the purpose of this device is documented as cancer screening on the website. They are flirting with the 1939 Cancer Act.


    ” When you see through your breast using Breastlight, you can see the thick or thin veins, capillaries, glands all of them properly highlighted. Now the thing to be concerned is how you can differentiate between the normal structure and breast cancer. Well, you can see the dark spot or lump and bump inside your breast and that area will not be lightened, would be visible like some dot or dark spot inside. You can also see if there are any shadows. Such dark areas might be the point of concern but not always.”

    (which also claims “Breastlight is available on Boots stores”).

    If these next quotes are correctly sourced, two consultant surgeons need to be reminded of the need for evidence before advocating screening. The claim that it won’t result in false negatives is startling, and one would have to question the wisdom of saying so. To judge from his web-page at UCL, he’s a distinguished researcher, so it does seem most odd that he should be backing something so evidence-free. The other person plugging it appears to exist: are NHS surgeons allowed to do this sort of advertising?


    “It appears that Breastlight is effective in the detection of malignant tumours and in some cases can differentiate between malignant and benign disease. This device will prove to be of particular value to women who experience difficulty in self examination – for example those with a history of recurrent cysts.” Mr Obi Iwuchukwu, Consultant Breast Surgeon, Sunderland City Hospital

    “It appears that this device does not cause unnecessary anxiety, nor is it likely to result in a number of false positives. It could prove useful for younger women who do not benefit from routine mammogram testing and often have more aggressive cancers.” Jayant Vaidya, Consultant Breast Surgeon, UCLH

  6. igb May 14, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    When I said “false negatives” I meant “false positives”. Correct before passing it through moderation, if possible.

  7. Chris Hiley May 18, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Hello – I’m on topic…honest, but it may not show at the start…… I am a fan of Michael Rosen’s Radio 4 prog. ‘Word of Mouth’. It’s just finished its most recent series, I think. There’s an interesting ‘cancer words’ programme to be made – if it hasn’t been already – that covers things like ‘early detection’, given the ‘all clear’, looking for the ‘cure’ for cancer (that’s always been top quality nonsense, that one. Persuasive, but still nonsense) looking at what’s meant, and then what’s understood and who makes and propogates the messages and their motivation (cancer charities, I’m looking at you for some of that….)Then there’s the public understanding of cancer and the products, ideas, that can be sold based on it, like this light thing or six monthly whole body scans for the serioulsy well – which the NHS don’t do FOR VERY GOOD REASONS. ‘Early detection’ is an analloyed good as far as popular accounts of cancer go, so here we go – let’s sell sell sell. Yip bloody ee.

    Early detection is considerably more nuanced, as anyone familiar with both breast and particularly prostate cancer should know, even if they find it hard to acknowledge. The late Sir Bobby Robson was consistently refered to in the Press as having been given the ‘all clear’ from cancer five times over, or having ‘beat cancer five times’. I understand, I think, what this actually means but I have always wondered what the lay public think it means and if the ‘five times’ indicated, to them a heroic fighter, the course of an unusal cancer, a usual cancer, or five entirely different cancers. And, what did they think about ‘all clear’? – How do they rationalise it? If you can be given an ‘all clear’ five times what meaning did ‘clear’ actually have, at any point?

    Cancer words are interesting, non?

  8. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney May 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    yes, Chris…

    it’s that early detection can often be meant to mean screening. I don’ t think the lexicon makes it clear that they are different; with very different risks. I try to say ‘prompt attention to symptoms’ instead, whether this helps or not I don’t know. There is an interesting piece in the BMJ this/last week which touches on this but doesn’t really nail it, http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e3017 I think really because the problematic meanings of words when it comes to screening aren’t laid out.