Breast Fest 2014: The Promise

Director: Hambi
Producer: Phil Hughes
Presenter: Carole Malone
Runtime: 59 minutes

Breast cancer is a disease that has affected millions of women around the world for decades. Mammography – the process of using ionizing radiation to capture a physical image of the human breast –  was created as a tool for diagnosis and screening, specifically for women age fifty and up. However, recent studies, including a recent Canadian National Breast Screening Study, are causing doubt in regards to the tool’s effectiveness. The Promise is a documentary film that looks at cancer screening in the UK, focusing on the impact mammography has had on the disease, the risks associated with the process, and its shortfalls and possible alternatives.

Presented by English journalist Carole Malone, this documentary takes a critical stance on mammography and its overuse in the medical field, especially in cases of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), abnormal cells widely considered the earliest form of breast cancer. Breast cancer is not an easy subject matter to discuss, and when you intend to criticize what is possibly the only widely-accepted medical practice for detection, you have to maintain a balance of delicacy, professionalism, and clarity. The film selects numerous facts about the procedure and examines them and their physical and psychological impacts on treated individuals. Even with a short runtime of 59 minutes, the film is littered with first hand information, which lends to its credibility. For example, individuals who have undergone years of mammography are featured in the film, presenting their stories and providing concrete backing to the overall argument. This film also sticks to the medical side of things, presenting input from key medical professionals, including those who have been a part of the process. It doesn’t get overly political, and it’s certainly not taking a business stance. By focusing on the medical, the film creates a well structured story that is aided by the hosted narration.

What The Promise does is spark an interesting debate on subjects of over-treatment, patient choice, and medical research. The film tries to kindle conversation around current practices, and pushes to revisit their impact both on the medical profession and on those who are ultimately treated. This piece is very insightful, and should definitely be given a watch.

Watch The Promise at 1pm on March 30, 2014, at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. For details, click HERE.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rethink Breast Cancer Executive Director, MJ DeConteau: “To Mammogram or Not to Mammogram?”. Panel members:

  1. Archie Bleyer, MD, FRCP, Co-Author “Effect of Three Decades of Screening Mammography on Breast-Cancer Incidence”
  2. Frances Wright, MD, MEd, FRCSC Head of Breast and Melanoma Surgery, Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook