Early detection of Breast Cancer is one factor which can greatly increase the chances of treating the disease successfully. However, there are differing opinions about when a woman should start going for routine mammograms. A new study gives credence to the assumption that earlier may be better.
USPSTF or the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is a state funded panel which gives advice for health screening based upon the latest research had in 2009, revised the breast cancer screening procedure. It recommends women start breast cancer screening at the age of 50 instead of 40 years. The panel opines that there is very little evidence which suggests that starting mammography at an earlier age improves patient outcomes. It further goes on to recommend woman for an early screening if there was a family history of the disease or a dense breast tissue.
Since the debatable guidelines were introduced, researchers started studies to establish the impact of these recommendations on the woman’s health. This is important also because health insurance companies often base their medical coverage on USPSTF guidelines.
New studies which were tabled on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America questions the USPSTF guidelines. Researchers from the University of California San Francisco studied 136 cases of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. The women were all aged in between 40 to 49 years.
50% of the women in the study were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer while the other half was diagnosed with a non invasive form of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma. The study revealed that of all the 136 subjects, 90 percent did not have a strong family history of the disease, and 86 percent were not categorized as having extremely dense breast tissue. These were two factors which encouraged the Doctors to recommend an early screening.
Dr. Holly Phillips, who has a practice in New York City said that she has not adapted the Task Force’s mammography guidelines and instead goes for more aggressive screening measures such as the ones outlined by the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association.
Phillips said, “To be fair, the USPSTF based their most recent guidelines for mammography starting at age 50 biennially (for average risk women) on a large analysis of data involving hundreds of studies. Nonetheless, the ACS, AMA and many practicing physicians, like myself, have not yet embraced the change. Without exception, we know that survival of breast cancer is highest when treatment is started as early as possible, and that requires early diagnosis. Mammography is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools we have in our arsenal.”