Sunday, August 28th, 2011
As we approach Breast Cancer Awareness month (October), I think it's informative to assess mammogram issues. In 2009 a government-sponsored study was reported by the US Preventive Services Task Force. The outcome of this report was that mammograms are overused and really almost never needed until a woman reaches age 50. The recommendation was that women not receive mammograms until they reach age 50, then they should decide whether they want to have them or not. At most, according to this report, women should have mammograms every two years beginning at age 50.
That report was, and is, in stark contrast to recommendations by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The American College of Radiology, and the American Cancer Society. All of these groups recommend that women begin receiving mammograms at age 40, and that they continue having mammograms yearly after that. For women in their 20's and 30's, clinical breast examinations should be performed every three years. (Here is an interesting link: ob-gyn-group-recommends-annual-mammograms-in-40s).
I work with a lot of breast cancer patients. Many of them are in their 20's. I am not a statistician but rather just a practical practicing plastic surgeon. Whether the government or a government-sponsored agency reports data, or whether a medical group reports data, there will probably be some hidden (or maybe not so hidden) bias. To me it gets down to, who do you trust more, your government or your doctor? Use common sense, be aware and be vigilant, and be your own strongest advocate. Keep "abreast" of your health!