Response to the American Cancer Society Breast Screening Recommendations
January 15, 2016
SOMERVILLE, NJ, January 15, 2016 -- The American Cancer Society and the US Preventive Services Task Force
recently released new guidelines for breast screening. These guidelines
include the recommendation that women at average risk for breast cancer
can wait until age 45 to undergo their first mammogram and that at age
55 women can begin transitioning to getting their mammogram every other
year instead of annually. The breast cancer multidisciplinary team at
the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University
Hospital Somerset met to discuss these new guidelines. The breast
cancer team consists of radiologists, breast and reconstructive
surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, primary care physicians,
registered nurses, mammography technicians, physical therapists,
hospital administrators and certified wig and prosthetic fitters.
Along with the American College of Radiology, Society for Breast
Imaging, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and
Radiological Society of New Jersey, we unanimously continue to recommend
the following breast cancer screening guidelines for women:
- Annual clinical breast exam starting at 20 years of age.
- Annual mammography starting at 40 years of age. Women at high risk
for breast cancer should talk to their physicians about getting screened
at an earlier age.
- Annual mammograms should continue in elderly women. There is no age
at which annual mammography should stop. This should be determined by
the patient and her physician.
We recognize that any time new guidelines are announced it can be
confusing to the members of our community. We are committed to
providing our patients with the most current recommendations for
prevention, early dedication and treatment. Our recommendations are
based on our first-hand experiences of patient care in our community,
analysis of peer reviewed research and our extensive training in this
specific healthcare issue. Our recommendations are based on the
Mammograms Are An Effective Screening Tool
Mammography is a remarkably simple, effective, affordable, safe and
widely available examination. It has been proven to save lives. Coupled
with advances in breast cancer treatment, mammography screenings have
helped significantly decrease mortality rates from breast cancer.
Now with the newest 3D technology, mammography has the potential to save
even more lives. 3D mammography provides state-of-the-art, detailed
imaging to help radiologists more accurately identify cancer at its
earliest stages and better determine when a biopsy is necessary and when
it is not.
Breast Cancer Has Been Increasing in Younger Women
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
the incidence of breast cancer has increased in 25 to 39-year-old women
between 1976 and 2009. There are a variety of factors that may increase
women’s risk for developing breast cancer. First menstrual periods are
starting at younger ages which increase breast cancer risk. Women are
more commonly using contraceptives and fertility treatments that contain
hormones that increase their risk of breast cancer. Delaying
childbirth until after age 30 or remaining childless also increases
breast cancer risk.
Early Detection is Key
The goal of screening is to detect a cancer in its early stages,
therefore saving lives. We fear that if women do not get their
mammograms on an annual basis, cancers may be found at later stages
requiring aggressive treatment, which can be a significant burden on the
patient, their spouses/partners, their children and even their work.
Breast Cancer Knows No Age Limits
The risk of getting breast cancer increases as we get older. While the
physician and patient may choose to forego mammography at a certain age
or if there are significant medical problems, the clinical breast exam
Clinical Breast Exams Are Beneficial for All Ages
Clinical breast exams
are an excellent opportunity for women of all ages to discuss their
breast health with their physicians and patients. A quick physical
examination can detect a growing lump and allow for that patient to get
treatment more quickly. While a cure may not be an achievable goal in
all patients, tumor growth and spread can usually be controlled.
However, one can control of pain, improve comfort and decrease the risk
of infection. We strongly recommend that clinical breast exams be
performed on an annual basis.
Above all, we encourage women to talk to their physicians about their
risk for breast cancer, how to perform a breast self-exam and when to
begin mammography screenings.