Position statement recommends women participate in BreastScreen Aotearoa

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The position statement examines the recent major international reviews of mammography screening.
The National Screening Unit (NSU) has developed a position statement addressing the harms of population breast screening.

The position statement recommends eligible women participate in BreastScreen Aotearoa (BSA) because, for most women, the benefits of participation outweigh the harms. Screening mammography is the only proven public health intervention for reducing mortality from breast cancer.

BSA Clinical Leader Dr Marli Gregory says the position statement examines the recent major international reviews of mammography screening and discusses known harms.

‘Screening tests carry a risk of false negative or false positive results. The position statement describes these and other potential harms associated with breast screening, including over-diagnosis. These harms are not new and have been previously considered by the BSA programme.’

The position statement was reviewed by the National Health Committee (NHC), an independent statutory body charged with prioritising new and existing health technologies and assisting the health and disability sector to spend its funding in the most effective way.

‘The NHC view is that the NSU’s position statement offers a balanced assessment of the harms of breast screening and may help clarify the large amount of sometimes contradictory information that has recently appeared.’

Dr Gregory says the NSU is committed to ensuring women have full and impartial information about the benefits and harms of breast screening in order to be able to make informed decisions about participating in BSA, and the position statement will help health professionals in their conversations with women about breast screening.

‘It will be supported by a review of BSA materials to ensure both benefits and harms are adequately explained in all materials. The NSU is working to ensure health professionals in primary care are aware of the position statement.’

The position statement is available here.

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Page last updated: 29 October 2014