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Posted: November 25, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Mammography Recommendations Unchanged

Newton Medical Center is among many other leading authorities that disagree with the recent declaration from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding mammography guidelines.

The USPSTF is an independent panel of primary care physicians funded and staffed by the Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Interestingly enough, there are no breast imaging specialists or oncologists on the panel.

The recommendations — created by a federal government-funded committee with no medical imaging representation — would advise against regular mammography screening for women 40-49 years of age, provide mammograms only every other year for women between 50 and 74, and stop all breast cancer screening in women over 74.

The USPSTF guidelines debunk the American Cancer Society recommendations that women typically get screened beginning at age 40 and earlier if they are at high risk. The panel also discourages women from performing a self-breast exam that the ACS has long recommended as an early detection tool.

"Mammography is not a perfect test but it is the best screening tool that we currently have to detect breast cancer at an early stage," says Dr. Amanda Bauer, Breast Imaging Radiologist in The Women’s Diagnostic Center at NMC. "These new recommendations will place many women in the 40-49 age group at risk of dying."

According to the American College of Radiology, at least 40 percent of the lives saved by mammographic screening are of women aged 40-49. Since the onset of regular mammography screening in 1990, the mortality rate from breast cancer, which had been unchanged for the preceding 50 years, has decreased by 30 percent.

"The concerns of the USPSTF about unnecessary over-treatment seem to diminish in importance when you’re talking about saving women’s lives," said Martha Garrison, MD, Chief Breast Imaging Radiologist at NMC. "We will continue to urge women to follow the American Cancer Society guidelines and send our patients reminders to get screened."

For more information about breast cancer and mammography, please visit: www.acs.org. For more information about The Women’s Diagnostic Center and to make an appointment for a screening mammogram, call (770) 385-7800.

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