Objective To provide easy to use estimates of the benefits and harms of biennial screening mammography for women aged 40, 50, 60, and 70 years.
Design Markov process model, with data from BreastScreen Australia, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Main outcome measure Age specific outcomes expressed per 1000 women over 10 years.
Results For every 1000 women screened over 10 years, 167-251 (depending on age) receive an abnormal result; 56-64 of these women undergo at least one biopsy, 9-26 have an invasive cancer detected by screening, and 3-6 have ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) detected by screening. More breast cancers (both invasive and DCIS) are diagnosed among screened than unscreened women. For example, among 1000 women aged 50 who have five biennial screens, 33 breast cancers are diagnosed: 28 invasive cancers (18 detected at screening and 10 interval cancers) and five DCIS (all detected at screening). By comparison, among 1000 women aged 50 who decline screening, 20 cancers are diagnosed over 10 years. There are about 0.5, 2, 3, and 2 fewer deaths from breast cancer over 10 years per 1000 women aged 40, 50, 60, and 70, respectively, who choose to be screened compared with women who decline screening at times determined by relevant policy.
Conclusion Benefits and harms of screening mammography are relatively finely balanced. Quantitative estimates such as these can be used to support individual informed choices about screening.