Sunday, November 29, 2009

Science in the news: The uproar over recent breast cancer screening recommendations

The outcry over the new recommendations for breast cancer screening seems to have subsided this week. As a recap, an expert panel advocates mammography for women 49 years or younger after consultation with their doctor; women 50 years and older should be screened every 2 years.

Why the change?

A panel of cancer experts evaluated medical data from women with breast cancer, looking specifically at factors such as age, treatment history and outcomes. After analyzing the data, the researchers observed both benefits and harms of early screening in women 49 years or younger.

Wait, harms of early detection? Really?

The harms the expert panel mentions are false-positive results, unnecessary biopsies, and over-diagnosis. The frequency of these events were greater in women 49 years and younger, and may outweigh the benefits of early screening in many women.

Diana Petitti, the Vice Chair of the expert panel had this to say:

"So, what does this mean if you are a woman in your 40s? You should talk to your doctor and make an informed decision about whether a mammography is right for you based on your family history, general health, and personal values."

Well said.

Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

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