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As breast cancer experts at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, we recognize that the recently announced changes in recommendations for breast cancer screening from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) have created a great deal of confusion among both the public and health care professionals about the best way to screen for breast cancer.
In the last two decades, screening mammography and advances in treatment have contributed to decreasing the number of women dying from breast cancer. With early diagnosis through mammography, women have more surgical options, allowing for conservative treatment more often than mastectomy. It has been well documented that screening mammograms improve survival of women with breast cancer.
After carefully reviewing the data upon which the Task Force based its revised guidelines, we recommend no change in our existing screening guidelines. We continue to adhere to the current American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology policies regarding mammographic screening.
Specifically, we continue to recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40 for women at average risk for breast cancer and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. We believe that a screening mammogram provides the best tool for early detection, when treatment is most effective.
We also support the practice of yearly Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) by a health professional, which should be part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women age 40 and over.
In addition we continue to believe that breast self-examination (SBE) is an important way for women to become familiar with their bodies and recognize subtle changes in their breasts which may result in early detection of breast problems.
For high risk patients, we continue to offer and support screening mammography and screening breast MRI, according to the American College of Radiology and American Cancer Society guidelines, as well. (See also the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool.)
The recommendations of the American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology have helped to promote the use of screening mammography and decrease the breast cancer death rate. These new guidelines would penalize subsets of women based on their age and compromise the success achieved until now. While we still need to identify modifiable risk factors and genetic markers to decrease the incidence of breast cancer, research in the radiology field continues to investigate new modalities to improve detection. In the meantime, we need to continue to provide women with the best tests currently available to diagnose early, curable breast cancer.
Katherine Tkaczuk, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Director, Breast Evaluation and Treatment Program
Cristina Campassi, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Radiology
Interim Director of the Breast Imaging Center