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Lives Will Be Lost With Proposed Changes to Mammography Guidelines
Date:11/17/2009

creening on society from a public health perspective. This means the researchers were looking at how changing breast cancer screening guidelines would affect the overall public, rather than individual women. In proposing the changes, the task force members said that starting mammograms later in life and doing mammograms less often would save a large amount of money. It also means that about 3% more women would die from breast cancer each year. The task force members felt that the amount of money saved (from fewer mammograms and side effects of extra biopsies and treatment) was greater than the value of more lives saved (3% fewer women surviving breast cancer).

At Breastcancer.org, we are deeply troubled by both the analysis that led to these proposed guideline changes and the effect these proposed changes would have on the health and lives of women. Our specific concerns:

  • The analysis was based on older mammography techniques, meaning the researchers mostly looked at results from film mammograms instead of digital mammograms.
  • The analysis was based on some inaccurate assumptions about optimal treatment after breast cancer is diagnosed. For example, it assumed that women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer would receive and benefit from hormonal therapy but not chemotherapy, even though we know that many of these women do receive and benefit from chemotherapy after surgery. Inaccurate assumptions like this may have caused the researchers to underestimate the number of lives that would be lost should the proposed changes in screening be adopted.
  • The analysis did not adequately consider the combined benefit of early detection (with current screening guidelines) and new treatments that have resulted in steadily improving survival rates in recent years. Screening cannot be looked at in isolation as a snapshot. Screening happens as we continue to improve both diagnosis and treatment. But we can't
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SOURCE Breastcancer.org
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