The American Cancer Society (ACS) released their new guidelines last week recommending screening mammograms begin for women at age 45, and biennial screenings beginning at age 55. Other respected medical organizations, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Medical Association continue to recommend annual screening beginning at age 40, while the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently proposed raising the age to 50. The NCBC continues to support beginning mammography screening at the age of 40 for women of average risk.
Mammographic screening in the 49-49 year age group has been contentious over the last several years with the competing issues of harms versus benefits. The harms of screening include “unnecessary” biopsy versus the harms of failure to screen, which forego the opportunity for early detection. Early detection has been a powerful driver in decreasing breast cancer mortality. The harms of screening are temporary, worry and pain, but the costs of failure to screen are lives lost.
With differing opinions on screening, it is important to remember that the USPSTF’s recommendations are the ones that could negatively impact access to mammograms for millions of women. If implemented, insurance companies would no longer be required to cover annual screenings for women ages 40-49.
We believe there is a critical need for a pause to determine appropriate guidance for physicians and women. The National Consortium of Breast Centers supports the bipartisan Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act, which would place a two-year moratorium on implementing the USPSTF breast cancer screening recommendations. This two-year “time out” would provide the necessary time for a review of all of the research and a thoughtful public discussion about whether changes need to be made.
The NCBC agrees with the American Cancer Society statement, “Women should have the opportunity to choose to begin annual screening as early as age 40”. What remains critical is that women are able to obtain an annual mammogram beginning at age 40 without barriers to access.
It is more important than ever that Congress passes the PALS Act. Please reach out and contact your legislator.
Jennifer Gass, MD, FACS
Chief of Surgery, Women and Infants’ Hospital
National Consortium of Breast Centers
Source: NCBC Press Release