Background and Context:
From 2009, Cancer Council WA saw a growth in the promotion of unproven breast imaging techniques (thermography, electrical impedance and tactile imaging) in Australia, making unfounded claims they detect breast cancer. Evidence indicated that promotion of these technologies was convincing women that the imaging methods were effective in detecting breast cancer, and were at least as effective as a screening mammogram.1 As these findings had significant implications for women's preference for, and uptake of, unproven breast imaging services over mammography Cancer Council WA took advocacy action.
To use legal, political and media advocacy to take action against claims by companies that unproven breast imaging techniques can detect breast cancer.
Cancer Council WA engaged and applied the Australian Consumer Law, therapeutic goods legislation and therapeutic goods advertising codes. Our legal, political and media advocacy included approaches to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Therapeutic Goods Advertising (TGA) Complaints Resolution Panel.
A number of imaging devices were removed from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and the ACCC commenced action against breast imaging service providers. In March 2014, the Federal Court found in two separate judgements that Perth companies Breast Check Pty Ltd and Safe Breast Imaging Pty Ltd misled and deceived consumers with their advertising claims. A Google search now finds scarce evidence of similar services being marketed in Australia.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The outcome of the ACCC’s action emphasises that companies making health-related claims have a duty to ensure their claims do not mislead or deceive consumers. This should be interpreted as a powerful onus to ensure health claims are supported by sound evidence. Ramifications of this work will benefit the health of Australians with regard to cancer screening services and beyond.