Release APMnews, by Virginie Bagouet, reproduced with the kind permission of APM international.
NEWS RELEASE of APMNEWS - Tuesday, June 22, 2021 - 18:48
The National Institute of Cancer in France (Inca) relegates the question of the benefit-risk of organized breast cancer screening to the "Fake-news" rubric
Keywords: #cancer #public health #Inca #breast cancer #screening #patients-users #revue Prescrire
PARIS, June 22, 2021 (APMnews) - The National Cancer Institute (INCa) is addressing the question of the benefit-risk of organized breast cancer screening in a new "Fake news" website rubric launched last week, APMnews found.
Last week, INCa launched on their website a new rubric : "Information behind fake news". Facing the multiplication of these "infox, fake news or rumors", it is intended to help "seeing in what they are false and better understand the dangers ", explains the president of INCa board of directors, Norbert Ifrah, on the homepage.
The section has been launched on different topics: HPV vaccination and multiple sclerosis, the impact of fasting, diet and food supplements in cancer patients, organic food and bra wearing on the risk of developing cancer.
The one on screening is entitled "Is breast cancer screening unnecessary or even harmful?
The INCa states that the scientific debate about the benefit-risk balance of screening has "a negative impact on women and turns them away from the screening examinations".
The increase of participation in organized screenings for cancer is included in the ten-year strategy to fight cancer, to be recalled.
Nevertheless, the Institute addresses the risks of screening, writing that in "10% to 20% of cases, some tumors will not progress or only slightly, but today it is not possible to differentiate them from those that will aggravate" and that repeated exposure to X-rays is likely to lead to a very small number of so-called "radiation-induced" cancers.
In 2016, following the citizen and scientific consultation on breast cancer screening, several organizations, notably the independent medical journal Prescrire and the Cancer Rose collective, called for more objective information to be provided to women (see release of 04/10/2016 at 12:44).
INCa had updated their communication and in 2017 published an information booklet entitled "Breast cancer screening: get informed and decide" and then put online a website dedicated to screening. These two sources of information can be accessed at the very bottom of INCa's new Fake News page.
Reacting in a press release to the Inca Fake news page on breast cancer screening, the Cancer Rose collective judges that "refusing to debate, reducing any contradiction to the rank of fake news is unworthy of scientists and scandalous from an institution in charge of informing about cancer ». The collective asks for the withdrawal of this page from the INCa website.
When contacted by APMnews, Bruno Toussaint, editorial director of the independent medical journal Prescrire, said that the information provided on the INCa's Fake news page is "not balanced".
He deplored that the reference to the Inca booklet with the indication :”To answer the questions that women have about this screening and to enable them to decide, with full knowledge of facts, whether or not to participate in organized breast cancer screening" appears at the very bottom of the new Fake news page.
He recalled that, while screening was useful to many women, it was unnecessary and harmful to others. An observational study based on an American registry established in 2015 that the treatment of ductal cancers in situ, which represents about 20% of breast cancers detected by mammography, does not reduce mortality from breast cancer, which had led a spokesman for the American Cancer Society to recognize that the treatment of these ductal cancers in situ is "excessive", to be recalled (see release of 21/08/2015 at 11:31).
In 2019, the journal Prescrire published a "Fact Sheet on Breast Cancer Screening " summarizing what is known about the benefit-risk balance of organized breast cancer screening". In women aged 50 to 69 years with no increased risk of breast cancer, the benefit of systematic cancer screening is uncertain," the Journal stated in introduction.
It highlighted that out of 1,000 women aged 50 to 70 years participating in mammography screening every two years for 20 years, there are 1,000 abnormal results resulting in 150 to 200 breast biopsies and the diagnosis of 75 cancers.
Among these 1,000 women, at most 6 avoid death from breast cancer, a few have less severe treatment than if they had not been screened, but 19 are diagnosed and exposed to the undesirable effects of the treatments without benefiting from them because their cancer would never have progressed and 15 women have a cancer not detected by screening.