9 facts about breast cancer screening all women should know

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) offers the following facts regarding its breast cancer screening recommendations.

USPSTF breast cancer screening recommendations facts

Fact# 1. Mammography screening is a valuable and important tool to reduce breast cancer mortality.

Scientific research continues to show that screening is most beneficial for women aged 50-74 years old. Women between the ages of 40-49 should individually decide whether or not they want to get a mammogram, based on their medical history, preferences, and how much value they place on the potential benefits against the potential risks of screening.

Fact# 2. There is significant consensus concerning mammography screening among groups that have recently released evidence-based guidelines.

The Task Force, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Healthcare all agree on the value of mammography screening for women in their 40s, and support informed choice for women in their early 40s.

Fact# 3. The decision to begin regular mammography at age 40 should be made individually by each woman, along with her doctor.

Mammography screening can be beneficial for women in their 40s, who should discuss the potential benefits and harms with their physicians in order to make an informed choice.

Fact# 4. The USPSTF’s recommendations have no immediate effect on private insurance coverage for mammography screening for most women in their 40s.

The Task Force does not recommend for or against insurance coverage. Legislators guaranteed through a provision of federal law that women in their 40s who are privately insured will not have a co-pay for their screening mammogram.

Fact# 5. The USPSTF reviewed all public comments made on its 2015 draft recommendation statement.

Each comment received was carefully reviewed and the recommendation statement was updated accordingly. There is a section in the recommendation providing an overview of the themes of the public comments received and their responses.

Fact# 6. Screening for breast cancer has associated risks.

One such risk is overdiagnosis and overtreatment; that is, the unnecessary detection and treatment of cancer that would not become a threat to a patient during their lifetime.

Fact# 7. The USPSTF sought feedback and commentary from outside experts to develop its recommendation statement.

This input included radiologists, surgeons, and oncologists. The USPSTF also opened its draft research plans, evidence reviews, and recommendation statement for comment.

Fact# 8. 3D mammography is not being recommended.

There is insufficient evidence that 3D mammography will lead to improved health or quality of life, or to reduced mortality in women. Further research is needed and encouraged.

Fact# 9. Additional screening is not being recommended in women with dense breasts.

As with the above fact, more research is required before it can be established whether additional screening in women with dense breasts is recommendable.


Task Force’s steps to developing recommendations

Step# 1. Topic nomination.

Anyone can nominate a topic on the USPSTF website. The Task Force gives priority to topics based on diverse criteria, such as its relevance to prevention and primary care, and importance for public health, potential impact.

Step# 2. Draft and final research plans.

After a topic is chosen, the Task Force develops a draft, including questions to be answered, and target populations. Anyone can comment on the plan during the 4 weeks that it is posted on the website. The comments are reviewed and considered while revising the plan. The finalized plan is posted on the website.

Step# 3. Draft evidence review and draft recommendation statement.

Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) researchers compile, review, summarize, discuss evidence on the topic, and develop a draft recommendation statement that is posted on the website for another 4 weeks.

Step#4. Final evidence review and final recommendation statement.

The Task Force and EPC consider all comments, and revise and finalize the evidence, and the recommendation statement based on the final evidence review and the public comments. The final product is posted on the website and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.


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