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Breast cancer wars, critical care criticised and abortion-depression link debunked

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Friday 9 December.

Breast cancer screening does more harm than good, according to the Guardian. The paper says women may suffer negative consequences as a result of the screening programme such as unnecessary surgery to remove harmless cancers that posed them no risk, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.

The study, led by James Raftery, professor of health technology assessment at Southampton University, analysed data from the 1986 Forrest report, which led to screening being introduced in the UK. The Forrest report said there would be about 3,000 quality-adjusted life years – QALYs – over 20 years for every 100,000 women who were invited to be screened. But the new latest paper claims once harmful effects are included, the QALY benefits are fewer: only 1,500 QALYs after 20 years – half Forrest’s estimates.

Criticism of the screening programme has prompted the Department of Health to ask Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government’s cancer tsar to commission a review of the evidence for the scheme.

Over at the Telegraph, more than half of high-risk hospital patients do not receive good care after surgery, according to a report cited by the paper. Only 48% of ‘critical care’ patients, deemed most at threat from operations, are given a high enough standard of care, according to the the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, a charity which reviews medical and clinical practice and analysed data from more than 19,000 patients in 300 British hospitals.

The enquiry, also reported in the Daily Mail, accused hospitals of putting patients at risk of death by sending them to general wards rather than critical care units, and of failing to advise them of the dangers of surgical procedures, the Telegraph says.

Finally, both the Guardian and the Telegraph report that having an abortion does not increase a woman´s risk of suffering mental health problems. Women with unwanted pregnancy do have a higher incidence of mental health issues than those in the general population, but the rates of problems are the same whether a woman opts for a termination or goes on to give birth, according to the report commissioned and published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

The report, which included data on hundreds of thousands of women in 44 previous studies, was carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, according to the Telegraph.