PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - A government task force has revealed surprisingnew guidelines about mammograms and breast cancerdetection.
A panel of doctors and scientists suggested that women don'tneed mammograms until they turn 50, and that self breast exams, areno good.
Those findings contradict what the American CancerSociety has been telling women for years. One local woman saysa breast self-exam and mammogram at age 42 saved her life.
Some doctors say it's a reminder that every woman's situation isdifferent. Susan Adler felt a lump in her breast three years ago. Amammogram confirmed it was stage two breast cancer.
"That self breast exam saved my life if I didn't do it I wouldnot be here today," said Adler.
But after years of recommending self-breast exams, a governmenttask force now says they're unnecessary and also uppingthe age of mandatory mammograms from age 40 to 50, then every otheryear thereafter.
Susan was 42 years-old when she discovered her lump and wasdiagnosed with cancer.
Reporter: With these new recommendations do we run the risk ofpeople, women, dying?
Adler said, "I personally think that we do. I felt like as womenand in this cause we took a major step backwards."
Some doctors say there is no proof mammograms under age 50 arebeneficial for all women.
Dr. Bachir Sakr from Women andInfants Hospital said, "A lot of the time you find women whohave abnormalities that are not breast cancer. And these lead tomore anxiety, more tests, more biopsies and sometimes moresurgeries. The way I see this is it's probably going to push us tohave a little more discussion with women between the ages of 40 and50 regarding that rather than just recommending mammography."
Despite the new recommendations, the American Cancer Societyreleased the following statement:
"The AmericanCancer Society continues to recommend annual screening usingmammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginningat age 40. Our experts make this recommendation having reviewedvirtually all the same data reviewed by the USPSTF, but alsoadditional data that the USPSTF did not consider. Whenrecommendations are based on judgments about the balance of risksand benefits, reasonable experts can look at the same data andreach different conclusions.
"In 2003, an expert panel convened by the American CancerSociety conducted an extensive review of the data available at thetime, which was not substantially different from the data includedin the current USPSTF review. Like the USPSTF, the Society's panelfound convincing evidence that screening with mammography reducesbreast cancer mortality in women ages 40-74, with age-specificbenefits varying depending on the results of individual trials andwhich trials were combined in meta-analyses."
"And like the USPSTF, the American Cancer Society panel alsofound that mammography has limitations - some women who arescreened will have false alarms; some cancers will be missed; andsome women will undergo unnecessary treatment. These limitationsare somewhat greater in women in their forties compared with womenin their fifties, and somewhat greater in women in their fiftiescompared with women in their sixties."
"We specifically noted that the overall effectiveness ofmammography increases with increasing age. But the limitations donot change the fact that breast cancer screening using mammographystarting at age 40 saves lives."
"As someone who has long been a critic of those overstating thebenefits of screening, I use these words advisedly: this is onescreening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend toany woman 40 and over, be she a patient, a stranger, or a familymember."
"The USPSTF says that screening 1,339 women in their 50s to saveone life makes screening worthwhile in that age group. Yet USPSTFalso says screening 1,904 women ages 40 to 49 in order to save onelife is not worthwhile. The American Cancer Society feels that inboth cases, the lifesaving benefits of screening outweigh anypotential harms. Surveys of women show that they are aware of theselimitations, and also place high value on detecting breast cancerearly.
"With its new recommendations, the USPSTF is essentially tellingwomen that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enoughof them. The task force says screening women in their 40s wouldreduce their risk of death from breast cancer by 15 percent, justas it does for women in their 50s."
"But because women in their 40s are at lower risk of the diseasethan women 50 and above, the USPSTF says the actual number of livessaved is not enough to recommend widespread screening. The mostrecent data show us that approximately 17 percent of breast cancerdeaths occurred in women who were diagnosed in their 40s, and 22percent occurred in women diagnosed in their 50s."
"Breast cancer is a serious health problem facing adult women,and mammography is part of our solution beginning at age 40 foraverage risk women."
"The AmericanCancer Society acknowledges the limitations of mammography, andwe remain committed to finding better tests, and currently arefunding a large study to improve the accuracy of mammography. Infact, data show the technology used today is better than that usedin the studies in this review, and more modern studies show thatmammography is achieving better results than those achieved inthese early experimental studies that go back as far as themid-60's."
"And as scientists work to make mammography even more effective,the American Cancer Society's medical staff and volunteer expertsoverwhelmingly believe the benefits of screening women aged 40 to49 outweigh its limitations."
Otis W. Brawley, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, American CancerSociety
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