Confused by all the fighting over the value of mammography? There’s been an active — even fierce — debate about the value of mammography, especially since the November 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations to change screening guidelines to every other year starting at age 50. Breastcancer.org has been a strong proponent of the current guidelines of annual mammography starting at age 40 for women in general and starting earlier for women at elevated risk.
The critics say that annual mammograms are unnecessary because they result in too many false alarms and too much treatment, causing unnecessary harm and stress for women and leading to excess healthcare costs. For sure, mammograms are imperfect. But we’ve come a long way. Even past studies using old-fashioned techniques demonstrated a significant survival benefit with early detection. And today, an even greater survival benefit is likely with fewer side effects because of much improved mammography and other diagnostic techniques combined with more advanced treatment options. Plus, many women in this country are already at significant risk for breast cancer by age 40, when they’re in the prime of their lives with children and other loved ones who depend on them. The reality is that only 50% of women are following the current guidelines — putting themselves at even greater risk. They can’t afford to push off mammograms until 50.
Breastcancer.org has been invited to lead the debate this week in The Wall Street Journal, and I have graciously accepted an invitation to join their group of thought leaders called The Experts. Breastcancer.org is proud and determined to embrace this important opportunity to encourage more women to take advantage of regular mammography screening. So many lives are at stake as breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women. Please join me in today’s Wall Street Journal debate, “Should All Women Over 40 Get Annual Mammograms?” I also want to thank my colleague, Dr. Emily Conant, for her expert contribution to this important discussion.
We welcome your comments below. How do you feel about regular mammograms?