Is the mammography screening advisable?

Created: 20.06.2016
Updated: 22.03.2018

A mammogram is considered the only effective screening method to detect breast cancer early in women between 50 and 69 years of age. This has been shown in studies. The Mammography Screening Program is therefore an integral part of early detection cancer screening in Germany and is financed by statutory and private health insurance.

Several international expert panels such as the World Health Organization (WHO) explicitly recommend a Mammography Screening Program as a method for detecting breast cancer early in women between 50 and 69 years of age. According to its scientific analysis the benefits of detecting breast cancer early outweigh the drawbacks.

The most important benefit of catching breast cancer early is that the examination can save women from dying from breast cancer. The biggest drawback is the "over diagnosis". Over-diagnoses occur with any type of cancer screening: Cancer which never would have surfaced without this early detection examination is detected and treated.  The frequency of over-diagnoses in early cancer detection can only be scientifically estimated. Information related to this topic varies greatly.

Expert panels choose different approaches to assess the benefits versus harm and come to different results. That's why there are some expert panels which find that the drawbacks of mammography screenings outweigh the benefits.

The bulletin from the Federal Joint Committee, which every woman in Germany 50 years of age and up receives along with the invitation to the Mammography Screening Program, focuses on the woman being free to decide: "You decide if you wish to participate in the mammography screening or not."

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