There could soon be an end to compulsory mammography screening of women in Uruguay, thanks to one woman’s battle.
A bill presented at the Congress on Thursday, 1st December aims to ensure that women are asked for their informed consent to undergo screening for breast cancer and are not penalised if they refuse the test.
The news is the latest in a long-running campaign by Ana Rosengurtt, a 55-year-old computer engineer. Earlier this year she won a 4-year legal battle for the right to be excluded from the compulsory test. A Montevideo court found that the government had neglected its obligation to obtain patients’ informed consent. But Ana’s victory this summer applied to her only. The new law, if adopted, will give the same freedom to all Uruguayan women.
Until the new law is passed, though, Uruguayan working women aged 50-69* will continue to be compelled by law to undergo mammography screening for breast cancer every 2 years, to qualify for the “carné de salud” (health card) that permits them to work, hold a driver’s licence, study at university. Women will still have to submit to compulsory PAP smear, blood and urine tests every two years. Uruguay has the highest cancer mortality in Latin America, and the 10th highest worldwide according to the WHO. Screening has been compulsory since 2006 and the policy is largely accepted, as awareness of the possible risks is low.
Ana says, "Thank you very much to all of you who had supported my fight all these years.
"Now the law will be discussed at the congress. I expect a swift approval as it is based on a ruling by the court. So, the ruling that initially applied only to me, will be a law for every woman soon. Not only justice, also congress will have endorsed my right."
Mammography screening for breast cancer has questionable benefits and considerable harms. HealthWatch believes it is unethical to impose screening without the woman’s informed consent.
*the age range changed this year, previously it was 40-59.
For more information:
BMJ, 8 Dec 2016
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