Beast Cancer Overemphasis

 

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Compared to other diseases or other cancers, breast cancer receives a disproportionate share of resources and attention. In 2001 MP Ian Gibson, chairman of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom all party group on cancer stated ‘The treatment has been skewed by the lobbying, there is no doubt about that. Breast cancer sufferers get better treatment in terms of bed spaces, facilities and doctors and nurses.’

Breast cancer also receives significantly more media coverage than other, equally prevalent cancers, with a study by Prostate Coalition showing 2.6 breast cancer stories for each one covering cancer of the prostate. Ultimately there is a concern that favoring sufferers of breast cancer with disproportionate funding and research on their behalf may well be costing lives elsewhere. Partly because of its relatively high prevalence and long-term survival rates, research is biased towards breast cancer. Some subjects, such as cancer-related fatigue, have been studied in little except women with breast cancer.

One result of breast cancer’s high visibility is that statistical results can sometimes be misinterpreted, such as the claim that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lives—a claim that depends on the unrealistic assumption that no woman will die of any other disease before the age of 95. This obscures the reality, which is that about ten times as many women will die from heart disease or stroke than from breast cancer.

The emphasis on breast cancer screening may be harming women by subjecting them to unnecessary radiation, biopsies, and surgery. One-third of diagnosed breast cancers might recede on their own. Screening mammography efficiently finds non-life-threatening, asymptomatic breast cancers and pre-cancers, even while overlooking serious cancers. According to H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, research on screening mammography has taken the ‘brain-dead approach that says the best test is the one that finds the most cancers’ rather than the one that finds dangerous cancers.

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