There were strong reactions to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations to change current breast cancer screening guidelines. Breastcancer.org reviewed the task force recommendations and the research they were based on in a Research News story.
The medical community's reactions were mixed, with both sides voicing strong opinions:
- The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said they would not change their breast cancer screening recommendations at this time.
- The National Cancer Institute (the federal government's expert group on cancer) and the American Academy of Family Physicians said they will take a wait-and-see approach to the recommendations.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the federal agency that supports the Preventive Services Task Force, has changed its breast cancer screening guidelines based on the recommendations.
- The American College of Radiology rejected the recommendations and predicted adoption of the recommendations "will result in countless unnecessary breast cancer deaths each year."
- Susan Love, M.D., a well known breast cancer surgeon and researcher and founder of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, supported the recommendations saying they were sound public health policy and long overdue.
Breastcancer.org strongly disagrees with the breast cancer screening recommendations proposed by the task force. We feel that that model the task force used to develop the recommended changes isn't accurate and the conclusions are flawed. Marisa Weiss, M.D., Breastcancer.org founder and president, has been interviewed by a number of national news organizations and has said the conclusions of the task force were based on unsound science and that the recommendations are "neither reasonable nor acceptable."
The Breastcancer.org community is made up of people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Within our community, it's clear that the recommendations have made people angry, confused, anxious, and afraid. To make sure everyone has the the most complete information possible, we're repeating our suggestions for anyone who is troubled or confused by news reports on the task force recommendations.
- Understand that these are still recommendations that will likely be discussed. It's a scary discussion because it could mean insurance companies may not cover annual mammograms or mammograms at all for women age 40 to 49 at average risk. This could be a major step backwards in the fight against breast cancer. But right now, the current screening guidelines most experts recommend haven't changed and should still be followed.
- The task force didn't say that screening mammograms are dangerous or should be avoided. The report specifically noted that the radiation exposure is acceptably low. This side debate shouldn't make you think that screening mammograms are bad and should be avoided. One of Breastcancer.org's greatest concerns is that women who should be getting screened won't because they're confused by or afraid of these new recommendations.
- Remember that healthcare decisions, including getting screening mammograms and doing breast self-exam, are personal choices you make based on the information available and your unique situation. A woman can choose to make breast self-exam part of her personal breast health monitoring and screening plan. Government recommendations and guidelines eventually may affect whether insurance companies cover screening mammograms or not. But this isn't true for breast self-exam, which costs only your time and commitment.
- Talk to your doctor about your family and personal health history and your individual risk of breast cancer. Together you can create a screening plan that makes the most sense for you and your unique situation.
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