Breast cancer survival rates may be undermined by a recommendation not to routinely screen females aged from 40 to 49 years using mammograms, two new studies have revealed. The USPSTF (US Preventative Services Task Force) had made this recommendation in November 2009.

University of Colorado researchers say the number of annual mammograms performed for women of that age have dropped, possibly negatively impacting on the benefits of prompt detection.

Since USPSTF’s recommendations, there has been a considerable fall in the number of screenings using mammograms for women aged 40-49, lead researcher Dr. Lara Hardesty explained.

In another study, Dr. Donna Plecha and team from the University Hospitals at Case Medical Center carried out a retrospective review to find out what the potential impact might be of skipping screening mammograms.

Dr. Plecha said:

“These guidelines greatly concerned us, especially for our patients and primary physicians. We know that when patients are screened earlier, they have a better prognosis for detection and treatment.”

The team found that 108 cases of cancer were diagnosed from 524 biopsies. Cancer diagnoses among 40-49-year-old women who had undergone screening mammography occurred at a much earlier stage of the disease compared to women of the same age who had not undergone screening.

If GPs (general practitioners, primary care physicians) follow USPSTF’s recommendations, breast cancer survival rates among these women will drop, Dr. Plecha believes.

Dr. Plecha said:

“70% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history of breast cancer. It’s very important that we continue to do all that we can to catch breast cancer in the earliest stages so that we can continue to save lives.”

Dr. Hardesty said:

“We must continue to get the message out to our patients and make sure that referring providers understand our recommendations because they are the ones who are influencing patients in that age group.”

Both team leaders presented their findings today at the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Source: American Roentgen Ray Society

Written by Christian Nordqvist