Health Headlines

Mammogram Guidelines Are Changing

An influential health panel has issued a “draft recommendation” that all women be screened for breast cancer every other year beginning at age 40. The draft recommendation is sharply at odds with earlier ones.

In its announcement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (U.S.P. T.) emphasized that their action today is one step short of a final recommendation. But it is rare for a draft recommendation to be reversed.

The panel also said in a news release that it still needs more research to determine whether women with dense breasts should have an additional screening with breast ultrasound or an MRI,

Additionally, the panel said it has still not determined the benefits of mammograms for women older than 75.

It previously recommended that women in their 40s make an individual decision about whether to get screened. This change in recommendation, the panel said, could result in 19 percent more lives being saved.

“New and more inclusive science about breast cancer in people younger than 50 has enabled us to expand our prior recommendation and encourage all women to get screened every other year starting at age 40,” said task force immediate past president Carol Mangione, M.D., M.S.P.H. “This new recommendation will help save lives and prevent more women from dying due to breast cancer.” Mangione is distinguished professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the executive vice chair for Health Equity and Health Services Research in the UCLA Department of Medicine

Additionally, the task force said, Black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and too often get deadly cancers at younger ages. The group said it “recognizes this inequity” and is “urgently” calling for more research to understand the underlying causes and what can be done to eliminate the dealth disparity.

“Ensuring Black women start screening at age 40 is an important first step, yet it is not enough to improve the health inequities we face related to breast cancer,” says task force vice chair Wanda Nicholson, M.D., M.P.H. Nicholson is a senior associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and professor of prevention and community health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. “In our draft recommendation, we underscore the importance of equitable follow up after screening and timely and effective treatment of breast cancer and are urgently calling for more research on how to improve the health of Black women.”  

The Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

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