Screening for Breast Cancer: Recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137:I-47. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-137-5_Part_1-200209030-00004
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(5_Part_1):I-47.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care.
The goal of screening for breast cancer is to find breast cancer at early, treatable stages. Ways to screen for breast cancer include breast self-examination (women feel for lumps in their own breasts), clinical breast examination (doctors or nurses examine women's breasts for lumps), and mammography. Mammography is an x-ray of the breast that often shows breast tumors before they are large enough to feel. Experts do not all agree about whether mammography decreases breast cancer death rates. The disagreement is strongest for mammography in 40- to 49-year-old women.
The USPSTF evaluated published research about the risks and benefits of breast self-examination, clinical breast examination, and screening mammography.
The USPSTF found fair evidence that women 40 to 69 years of age who have screening mammography every 1 to 2 years die of breast cancer less frequently than women who do not have screening mammography. The benefits increase as women become older. Inviting 838 women 50 to 69 years of age to have mammography will prevent one breast cancer death. Inviting 1792 women 40 to 49 years of age to have mammography will prevent one breast cancer death. There are few studies of mammography for women 70 years of age and older. The potential harms of mammography include anxiety, procedures, and costs that result from mammograms that suggest cancer when there is none (false positives). The USPSTF found no evidence that breast-self examination or clinical breast examination reduced breast cancer death rates. Other experts have drawn different conclusions from the same evidence; they decided to exclude the results of some studies because of weaknesses in the study methods. The USPSTF also found weaknesses in these studies but did not think the weaknesses justified ignoring the studies' results.
The USPSTF recommends that women 40 years of age and older consider having screening mammography every 1 to 2 years. Women should understand that there is a possibility that they will have false-positive results on mammography. They should then weigh the potential risks (anxiety and additional procedures, such as breast biopsy) and the benefits (reduction in breast cancer death rates for women their age) when deciding whether to get mammography. For women 70 years of age and older, the USPSTF recommends screening mammography every 1 to 2 years unless a woman has other serious illnesses that are likely to reduce her life expectancy.
The USPSTF found that almost all of the studies of breast cancer screening had weaknesses. As better studies become available, recommendations about breast cancer screening may change.
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Hematology/Oncology, Breast Cancer, Cancer Screening/Prevention, Prevention/Screening.
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