The overdiagnosis of breast cancer via mammography screening is "larger than is generally recognized," conclude the authors of a new analysis published online October 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
An overdiagnosis of breast cancer refers to a tumor detected on screening that "never would have led to clinical symptoms," explain the investigators, led by H. Gilbert Welch, MD, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
"I think the main message [of the study] is that screening has both benefits and harms. There is no single 'right answer' ― values matter. Screening is a choice, not a public health imperative," Dr Welch told Medscape Medical News.
Overdiagnosis is considered one of the harms of screening, but it is not easily evaluated using clinical trial data because of the need for long-term patient follow-up, the study authors say.