The Final Word On Breast Cancer Screening

The Final Word On Breast Cancer Screening

In football there are bubble, middle, slot, and slip screens -- all designed to fool the defense and let the quarterback throw a short pass for necessary yardage. No one used those screens more last year than the Kansas City Chiefs who completed a league-high 5.36 screen passes per game.

Breast cancer screening is also an effective game-winner, catching breast cancer and saving lives. But the use of mammograms as a yearly routine screening for women 40-plus has come under fire because it leads to unnecessary biopsies and treatments, doesn’t seem to correlate with greater survival from breast cancer, and exposes women to radiation.

While we doubt it will end the confusion entirely, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued its findings on the best use of mammograms for breast cancer detection. Women 40 to 50 should consult with their doctor to determine what schedule is best for them, but the USPSTF says: Every two years can be effective, especially for women in this age group who have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer. If you’re at high risk, you and you doctor may determine earlier and more frequent mammograms may have more benefit than risk. Women 50 to 74 (or those whose RealAge is 74 or less) should have a mammogram every two years.

Some questions remain unanswered: USPSTF says there isn’t enough evidence to determine the risk/benefit of screening women 75 and older, using 3-D mammography, ultrasound, MRI or digital breast tomosynthesis to screen women with dense breasts.

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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