- Title: USA: New guidelines suggest routine mammograms should start at 50
- Date: 18th November 2009
- Summary: WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES (NOVEMBER 17, 2009) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) LAURA NIKOLAIDES, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH PROGRAMS, NATIONAL BREAST CANCER COALITION, SAYING: "The harm is unnecessary biopsies, anxiety, extra testing, imaging - you know you're being exposed to radiation during imaging. So, you're getting tests, you may end up getting a biopsy that's unnecessary."
- Embargoed: 3rd December 2009 12:00
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Health,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAF196EATNBMJ5MESVC3GJ38U83
- Story Text: Sweeping new U.S. breast cancer guidelines released on Monday (November 16) recommend against routine mammograms for women in their 40s, but several groups immediately rebelled against the recommendations.
"I think that this new report that came out really is ludicrous," said Dr Sharon Rosenbaum Smith, attending breast surgeon at St. Luke's Roosevelt hospital. She added, "The benefits of mammography far outweigh any potential risks."
The new guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an influential panel of independent experts, would sharply curtail the number of breast mammograms done in the United States, sparing women the worry of false alarms and the cost and trouble of extra tests.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition supports the USPSTF's report. Director of Research Programs, Laura Nikolaides told Reuters that mammograms give people a false sense of security.
"They're just not good enough to, you know, find those, distinguish between the cancers that are lethal and more aggressive and those that are slower growing," said Nikolaides.
U.S. cancer experts argued the altered schedule may mean more women will die from breast cancer.
The guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are based largely on computer projections from six independent research groups in the United States and Europe.
They predicted that screening women 50 to 69 every other year will catch nearly as many breast cancers -- 81 percent -- while producing half as many false positive results.
"Although the USPSTF recognizes that the benefit of screening seems equivalent for women aged 40 to 49 years and 50 to 59 years, the incidence of breast cancer and the consequences differ," the task force, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, wrote.
The majority of women that Reuters spoke to disagreed with the USPSTF's recommendations.
"I believe that women, before they're 50, should have mammograms," said Susan Ruder from Boston.
Jaclyn Brawley, whose aunt died from breast cancer, said, "I believe that you should go early for your screenings, be tested early, even at the age of 30 if you have to," she said.
The USPSTF's last recommendations in 2002 called for routine mammograms every one to two years for all women older than 40.
Now, they recommend no routine screening for women in their 40s, and instead suggest these women decide for themselves when to start after weighing the risks and benefits.
The panel said there is not enough evidence to say women over 74 benefit from mammograms because at that age, screening may be detecting cancers that will not ever kill a woman.
The guidelines also say there is not enough evidence to prove that women benefit from breast self-examinations, or even if they help if doctors do them.
The report states that screening of women under 50 causes damage when benign, harmless growths are discovered.
"The harm is unnecessary biopsies, anxiety, extra testing, imaging - you know you're being exposed to radiation during imaging. So, you're getting tests, you may end up getting a biopsy that's unnecessary," said Nikolaides.
Dr. Rosenbaum Smith disagrees, saying, "I would much rather pick up these cancers when they're smaller, more easily detected and more easily treated, than waiting to find out who is going to progress to a more advanced breast cancer and then need to give them more advanced treatments."
The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said they will not be changing their guidelines.
The National Cancer Institute, which funded the modeling study, said women of average risk need to discuss the risks and benefits of mammograms with their doctors.
Breast cancer is the top cancer killer of women globally, killing 500,000 annually.
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