The Latest Word on Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening final recommendations issued by US Preventive Services Task Force

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has now issued its final recommendations on breast cancer screening, including a discussion of the potential benefits and harms of mammography performed every two years.

In the new recommendations, the USPSTF said mammography reduces breast cancer deaths among women ages 40 to 74 — with the greatest benefits and least harm seen among those age 50 or older.

Women in their 40s may also benefit from screening every two years, according to the USPSTF. However, the agency recommends that the decision to begin screening be an individual one — taking into account a woman's health history, preferences, and how she values the potential benefits and harms of breast cancer screening.

The greatest potential harm of mammography, according to the USPSTF, is unneeded treatment for a cancer that would not have threatened a woman's health during her lifetime.

The USPSTF said women in their 40s who have a mother, sister or daughter with a history of breast cancer may benefit more than other women from starting screening before age 50.

The agency also identified a number of areas where more research is still needed. These areas included breast cancer screening in women age 75 and older, additional screening in women with dense breasts, and the effectiveness of 3-D mammography. Due to a lack of evidence, the USPSTF said it is currently unable to make recommendations either for or against these services.

"The more women know about the benefits and harms of screening, the more likely they are to make informed choices about their health care," wrote Albert L. Siu, MD, MSPH, and colleagues, in a statement on behalf of the USPSTF.

In an editorial about this statement, Vice President of the American College of Physicians Christine Laine, MD, MPH, and colleagues, said they could not agree more.

"Let's douse the flames and clear the smoke so that we can clearly see what the evidence shows and where we need to focus efforts to fill gaps in our knowledge so that women, along with their health care providers, can make the best decisions to reduce their risk for breast cancer–related morbidity and mortality," Dr. Laine and colleagues wrote.

The study and editorial were published Jan. 11 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The USPSTF funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 8, 2016
Last Updated:
January 11, 2016