Health Magazine

Canadian Task Force Weighs in On Mammography Screening Schedules

Posted on the 04 December 2011 by Jean Campbell

task force reduces mammogram schedulesA Canadian preventative task force is the latest to weigh in on when women need to begin having mammograms and how often they need mammograms.

According to an article by Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today, published on 11/21/11, the Canadian Preventative Task Force published a report stating that women ages 40-49, of average risk for breast cancer, do not need annual breast cancer screenings.

The task force stated that breast screening for women of average risk in that age group results in a relatively small mortality benefit, which may be countered by an increased risk of over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.

The task force also reported that women from 50 to 74, who are considered to be of average risk for breast cancer, only needed to have screening mammograms every two to three years.

The task force recommends not using MRIs, clinical breast exams and monthly self-breast exams as screening tools.

A few years ago, a U.S. task force came out with similar guidelines causing a firestorm within the medical community and organizations that serve women as well as survivors themselves.

The American Cancer Society and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support annual mammography screenings for all women beginning at age 40.

As a 2x breast cancer survivor whose cancers were picked up in annual mammograms as early stage cancers that didn’t require chemo, I have the following questions and comments:

How do you know if you are at average risk? Just because there may be no history of breast cancer in your family that you know of, that doesn’t mean you can make that assessment yourself.

What if you have dense breasts, which are now considered a risk factor? How would you know that without a baseline mammogram? Do you really want to wait until 50 to find out if you are at average risk for breast cancer?

What about the value of catching a breast cancer early, before it has spread outside of the breast? Given the speed at which some breast cancers grow, not being screened until 50 seems a risky thing to do.

Why not use the early intervention tools we have to find a breast cancer before it requires extensive surgery and debilitating chemo?

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