Monday, January 31, 2011

Evidence Suggests the Need for More Frequent Breast Cancer Screenings

A recent study calls into question a U.S. advisory panel’s latest breast cancer screening guidelines recommending that women to begin having mammograms at a later age and at less frequent intervals. Findings of a recent analysis conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado and University of Michigan suggest more frequent mammograms lead to more lives saved. The results of the new study were published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

The research team studied the same risk models used by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) prior to their issuance of new and controversial breast screening guidelines in 2009. However, the results of the new study yielded far different results than the analysis performed by the task force. The latest research found that annual mammograms beginning at age 40 save 65,000 more lives than do mammograms performed every other year on women 50 and older. By setting guidelines that recommend no routine mammograms for women in their forties, and also recommend that women in their fifties have mammograms only every other year, the task force ignored scientific evidence that more frequent mammograms save lives.

Dr. Mark Helvie of the University of Michigan Health System, who participated in the research, noted that the number of lives saved by more frequent mammograms “…is not a small difference.” In fact, according to the research team’s calculations, a woman who has a mammogram annually beginning at age 40 decreases her risk of dying from breast cancer by 71 percent. In comparison, if she chooses to follow the recommendations of the task force her risks are diminished by only 23 percent.

The task force guidelines instantly became the subject of much debate when first issued, as they directly contradicted the long-followed standard practice of recommending routine breast cancer screening begin at the age of 40. Although the new guidelines were intended to provide for less worry and expense for the female gender, breast cancer experts and advocates argued the new recommendations would cause confusion among women with the result leading to more breast cancer deaths. According to Helvie and colleague Edward Hendrick from the University of Colorado “the USPSTF chose to ignore the science available to them and overemphasized the potential harms of screening mammography, to the serious detriment of U.S. women who follow their flawed recommendations.”

Breast cancer is a serious killer. After lung cancer, it is the second-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women and claims 500,000 lives annually worldwide. In addition, the disease is diagnosed in approximately 1.3 million globally each year. Women can protect themselves by participating in Breast Cancer Awareness and by getting active with a Breast Cancer prevention program that includes eating healthy and getting a sufficient amount of exercise.

Source: HealthNews By Drucilla Dyess

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