New Debate Over Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, other than skin cancer. The chance of developing an invasive breast cancer in a woman’s lifetime is approximately 1 in 8. In November 2009, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its newest recommendations for routine breast cancer screening by mammography. The USPSTF is now recommending that women undergo screening mammograms every two years, starting at age 50. This is for women without additional risk factors, such as family history. Other organizations continue to stick to the previously well known recommendations of mammograms at age 40.

Why delay mammograms? Within this debate are concerns that too many women are undergoing unnecessary procedures, such as additional imaging studies, biopsies, or treatment. There are also limitations of mammography, particularly in younger women with denser breast tissue, as well as the risk of false security with a “normal” mammogram . Others raise concerns about radiation exposure with longer term mammogram use.

In response to the new USPSTF recommendations, other societies and organizations have spoken up on this controversial topic. The American Cancer Society continues to recommend screening mammography and clinical breast examination annually for women beginning at age 40. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) also recommends that women continue to have routine screening mammograms every 1-2 years starting at age 40 and annually at age 50. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) plans to continue to evaluate the recommendations based on the data in light of the USPSTF’s latest change, but has previously recommended screening every 1-2 years starting at age 40. In addition, the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) and the American College of Radiology (ARC) have also published new recommendations in January 2010, that state breast cancer screening should begin at age 40.

At Haugen OBGYN, we understand that this information can be very confusing. As a practice, we are continuing to recommend screening mammography in your 40’s, but we understand that every woman’s health and family history is unique. We will continue to follow this topic closely and keep you updated as recommendations and new evidence emerge. The doctors at Haugen OBGYN would be happy to review the best screening plan for you at your next visit. Use the links below to obtain more detailed responses from the agencies listed above.