In the meantime, the only way to truly know whether breast cancer screening causes more harm than good is to conduct a clinical trial in which women are randomly assigned to either have treatment based on the screening results or watch and wait.
"That would be almost impossible," said Scholz, believing few women would sign on. "But I would much rather have imperfect information [like the information from studies like Raftery's] than no information at all."
While large studies shed light on the benefits and risks of screening overall, experts stress that each patient is different. The picture is further complicated by the tendency of the 10 in 2,000 women who have unnecessary surgery just to be glad they don't have cancer.
"All of them think their lives were saved," said Raftery.