Wednesday, January 20, 2016

USA Radiologist Provides Insight on Updated Recommendations for Breast Cancer Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated the recommendations on screening for breast cancer. The final recommendations say mammograms should be done every two years for women ages 50 to 74.

The recommendations, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month, are mostly similar to the task force’s previous guidelines but allow more leeway for women in their 40s to consider the test. The recommendations state that “the decision to start screening mammography in women prior to age 50 years should be an individual one. Women who place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms may choose to begin biennial screening between the ages of 40 and 49 years.”

However, Dr. Joel Lightner, assistant professor of radiology at the USA College of Medicine, said the American College of Radiology still recommends that all women start screening mammograms at age 40, and the breast imaging department at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital follows these recommendations.

“We feel strongly that the data used to change the national guidelines is not as strong as the original data that created the previous guidelines,” said Dr. Lightner, who serves as a radiologist specializing in mammography at the Imaging Center at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

Additionally, Dr. Lightner said negative attacks on issues such as stress induced by false positives should not outweigh mortality benefit. “False positives are things that look like cancer on mammograms but are not,” Dr. Lightner said. “We work hard to eliminate as many false positives as possible but still maintain our ability to find cancer.”

In addition, the Imaging Center at USA minimizes false positive “stress and anxiety” by having rapid results. “At the USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital Imaging Center, women who visit for mammography screenings receive test results before they leave the hospital,” Dr. Lightner said. “We have a system in place that has the potential for someone to come in for a screening, have an abnormality detected, be worked up the same day and leave with an appointment to see our surgeon usually within a week.”

Dr. Lightner said to keep in mind that the new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force only apply to women of average risk. Hence, women with family or personal history of cancers have overall increased risk, and discussions should be had with a physician to determine the most effective way to screen for cancer.

Click here for more information on the new recommendations. Dr. Lightner also recommends reading a recent editorial from his mentor, Gilda Cardenosa, on the subject.

To schedule a mammogram, call your primary care provider or OB-GYN. You can also call the USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital Imaging Center at (251) 415-1660.

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