Sunday, August 15, 2010

I’m under 50 do I still need an annual mammogram?

In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued new guidelines for breast cancer screening. These guidelines recommend against self-breast exams, mammography and clinical breast exams for women ages 40-49 and over 75. This is different from the American Cancer Society's long-standing position that women should begin receiving mammogram screenings starting at age 40. This recommendation also comes despite evidence proving the death rate from breast cancer decreased 30-40% since the onset of regular mammography screening in 1990.

What was the Task Force rationale?
The harms of mammography including discomfort, anxiety and possible overtreatment outweigh the marked reduction in the death rate resulting from regular screening.

Many women are now confused and asking the question,
“I’m under 40 do I still need an annual mammogram?”
Earlier this year, I lost Judy, a dear friend and colleague, to cancer. She was 49. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42 when an abnormal mass was detected during her annual mammogram screening. Her reoccurrence came at age 47.

A few years ago, I asked Judy to give a presentation to my professional organization on a business related topic. She agreed to do so with one condition; she would be allowed to mention she was a breast cancer survivor and encourage every member to begin annual mammogram screenings at age 40.

This one is for you Judy:
While digital mammography is not perfect, it is currently the best tool available to detect breast cancer. Ignore the task force and continue scheduling annual mammograms every year beginning at age 40.

1 comment:

  1. And if you are under 50 and your insurance won't cover a mammogram, give it to yourself as a birthday present! A small price to pay for a life saving procedure.