In November, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended new guidelines on breast cancer screening, including mammography and breast self-exams. The group recommended against routine mammograms for women age 40 to 49. And it recommended against doctors and nurses teaching women to do self breast exams.
The recommendations stirred up plenty of controversy.
“Any recommendations regarding screening -- whether for breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, or others -- are going to be met with differing opinions because the recommendations ultimately are based on differing value judgments,” explains Duke radiologist Dr. Daniel Sullivan, who was a member of the 1997 NIH Consensus Panel that considered this same question (whether or not to recommend breast screening for women ages 40 to 49). “What is important to one person may not be as important to another, in terms of risks and benefits.”
While there might be some controversy over exactly what's necessary, experts at Duke, including Sullivan, oncologist Dr. Amy Abernethy, who heads the Duke Cancer Center Research Program, and Duke breast oncologist Dr. Gary Lyman say there are several points most doctors agree on:
- No screening test is perfect, and we always need to develop better ones.
- Although we have made progress in our knowledge of breast cancer, we need to know more so that we can prevent occurrence. Until that time, we must continue our quest to determine how to treat every woman’s breast cancer in the most effective way possible.
- Without a doubt, every woman should be familiar with her own breasts and should report any changes or concerns to her physician.
- Each woman should talk to her physician about mammography and should be allowed and encouraged to make her own decisions about whether or not to have a mammogram.
For more information on mammograms and the new recommendations, check out the full story in the current issue of Duke Medicine's Duke Connect magazine.
And every Tuesday leading up to the Race for the Cure on June 12, Go Ask Mom will be featuring information about breast cancer thanks to Duke Medicine. For more on the Breast Program at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, click here. For more on WRAL's Race for the Cure team, click here.