Warning on false breast cancer screening

THE West Australian Cancer Council has warned all Australian women to beware of deceptive breast cancer screening practices, after a WA firm went to court over misleading patients.

A verdict from the WA Federal Court has found a breast imaging provider, formerly called Breast Check, but now known as PO Health Professionals, falsely assessed women for breast cancer.

The judgment was sparked by court action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against the firm, which falsely claimed its assessments could determine whether women had breast cancer.

But the firm, which used a "multifrequency electrical impedance mammograph" and a thermographic camera to assess patients, was found to have misled customers on their test results.

Cancer Council WA education and research director Terry Slevin said the claims made by the company were not based on sound scientific evidence.

"Specifically, we believe very close scrutiny is justified of any company offering thermography or Multifrequency Electrical Impedance Mammograph (MEM device) and claiming these devices are legitimate forms of breast cancer screening," he said.

"On the strength of this case, we believe any business making these claims using these technologies serving as breast cancer screening devices should cease doing so immediately."

While it is not known how many women attending Breast Check's service were given false information about their cancer status, the court judgment found that neither of the devices used could substitute for an actual mammogram.

Mr Slevin said actions by the ACCC were an "important step" in helping consumers have faith in claims about health services, and put a "clear onus" on companies to ensure they had a sound basis for such claims.

"We believe the ramifications of this case will be of benefit to the health of Australians with regard to cancer services and beyond," Mr Slevin said.

The case is again due in court in May, where the commission will seek declarations, injunctions and an order that corrective letters be sent to those consumers affected.

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