Over 86,000 sign petition to make breast cancer examination less painful
Over 86,000 people signed a petition for the Dutch population screening for breast cancer to use a less painful examination method than a mammogram. Initiator Muriel van der Draaij will submit the petition to parliament on Tuesday, RTL Nieuws reports.
The Dutch population screening for breast cancer invites women between the ages of 50 and 75 to get a mammogram every two years. Every year about 1.2 million women get the invitation, and around 800,000 show up for the examination. Women participating in the screening have an average of 50 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer, according to the broadcaster. The screening prevents an estimated 850 to 10,75 women from dying of breast cancer yearly.
And yet, many women avoid the screening because a mammogram can be painful. Mammography is an x-ray of the breast. The woman has to place her breasts between two compression plates one at a time. The plates press the breasts tight and flat for a few seconds per x-ray.
Murial van der Draaij was surprised that the painfulness of the scan wasn’t even mentioned when she got her first invite for the population screening two years ago. “No one was talking about it, while everyone knows it’s an unpleasant thing to get done.” She posted about it on Facebook. “And then the responses poured in. Women had gotten blue breasts and were still hurting for weeks.”
She started a petition as a bit of a joke but quickly got over 86,000 signatures. When she saw how many people felt strongly about this, she decided to take it further. She discovered that you need 40,000 to present a citizens’ initiative to parliament and decided to do just that. “I’m really not asking for the world from parliament. I ask them to start replacing the current method of the population screening for breast cancer.”
But that is more easily said than done, several experts told RTL Nieuws. The Leiden University Center has been researching the Mamma CT - a variant of a mammograph in which women dangle their breasts through two holes in a bed to get the scan done - since October 2021. While this is a painless method, the Mamma CT is not yet ready for use in the population screening, radiologist Martin Wasser of LUMC told the broadcaster. “First, we have to prove that it is equally effective, and moreover, more than 800,000 women participate in the population screening every year. Currently, there is only a Mamma CT in Leiden, and you can’t send them all to Leiden. Purchasing multiple Mamma CTs is also a massive expense.”
An ultrasound is also less painful than a mammogram but much less accurate, cancer fund KWF said to RTL. “With today’s knowledge, the mammogram is the most appropriate and proven method to reliably and affordably examine a large group of women for early breast cancer.”