More on Screening Mammograms
The fight continues. Some of you will recall the uproar several years ago when the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommended fewer mammograms. Important note: any discussion about the value of mammograms is focused on screening mammograms -- meaning exams for women who do not have a personal or family high risk of breast cancer. None of this applies to any of us; it is always suggested that, post breast cancer, women have annual mammograms and, in some cases, also an annual breast MRI.
More recently, there has been a lot of criticism of the Komen Foudation's position on the value of screening mammography. The basic complaint has been that Komen has overstating the value of screening mammograms, using five year survival statistics which are generally thought to be irrelevant in this specific conversation.
Anyway, the newest entry in the discussion is this report from the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health which states that regular screening mammograms may reduce mortality by as much as 50 percent. Here is the beginning of a report from Medscape and then a link to read more:
Screening Mammography Reduces Mortality Risk by 50% or More
September 4, 2012 (Montreal, Quebec) - Regular screening mammography reduces mortality from breast cancer by at least 50% in women 50 to 69 years of age, not by one fifth, as estimated by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, in the opinion of one public health researcher speaking here at the Union for International Cancer Control World Cancer Congress 2012.
Wilbur Deck, MD, from the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Services in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, took the Canadian Task Force to task for their estimation of the mortality benefit from regular mammography, which he feels is "clearly biased downward" for women 50 to 69 years of age.
In their update of screening recommendations published in 2011, the Canadian Task Force recommends routine screening every 2 to 3 years for women 50 to 69 years of age on the basis of "moderate quality" evidence. This recommendation is graded as "weak."
"The task force did not do the actual review of the screening studies. They farmed out what I think should be their core competency, which is to analyze the data. It was the group [to whom the review was farmed out] that estimated that the reduction in mortality from breast cancer screening was 21%," Dr. Deck told Medscape Medical News. "Even though a lot of people in those studies were never actually screened, the task force never challenged that number."
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