Posted on Jun 20, 2013, 6 a.m.
Many women in their 40s are still have regular breast cancer screenings despite national guidelines recommending otherwise.
New guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in 2009 recommended that while women ages 50-74 should continue to undergo mammograms every 2-years, those between the ages of 40 and 49 without a family history of breast cancer should instead discuss the risks and benefits of routine screening mammography with their physicians. However, results of a study by Lauren D. Block, M.D., M.P.H., a clinical fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her colleagues has found that women seem to be ignoring the new guidelines. Research has shown that although routine mammography does increase cancer detection in young women, it only reduces mortality risk by a very small percentage. Furthermore, routine mammography in women in their 40s has been shown to result in over-diagnosis, and unnecessary treatment, including biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies, and weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs – as many of the cancers detected would probably never be dangerous, but are aggressively treated. On top of that there is the risk of false positives, which result in avoidable procedures and psychological trauma. "Patients – and likely their providers – appear hesitant to change their behavior, even in light of evidence that routine screening in younger women carries substantial risk of false positives and unnecessary further imaging and biopsies," said Dr Block.
Lauren D Block, Marian P Jarlenski, Albert W Wu, Wendy L Bennett. Mammography use among women ages 40-49 after the 2009 U.S. preventive services task force recommendation. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 May 15. [Epub ahead of print]