Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

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In November 2009, many people were surprised to hear that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revised the national breast-screening guidelines. The revisions have generated confusion for both patients and health-care providers.

The revised USPSTF guidelines recommend that women between the ages of 40 and 49, with no history of genetic mutations or no previous radiation treatment for breast cancer, not have routine screening mammograms. Rather, they recommend that women discuss the pros and cons of obtaining mammograms with their primary health-care providers.

However, the Swedish Cancer Institute does not endorse these revised guidelines.

Swedish Cancer Institute’s response

The Swedish Cancer Institute Breast Program has decided to join with other organizations in continuing to endorse the guidelines of the American Cancer Society, which recommend that women ages 40 and older:

  • Obtain annual screening mammograms
  • Have an annual clinical breast exam
  • Consider performing regular self-breast exams

Here’s why we don’t endorse the new recommendations:

  • Many physicians and organizations believe that the USPSTF analysis underestimated the benefits of screening and overestimated the potential harms.
  • The earlier a breast cancer is detected, the less chance that it will have spread.
  • Twenty percent of breast cancers are currently detected in women under 50; we wish to increase the percentage of cancers detected at these early stages, not ruling out the opportunity for early interventions.
  • Studies have consistently demonstrated a 30-percent reduction in breast cancer deaths over the past ten years in the United States, most of which is directly related to early detection with mammography. This reduction is based in large part due new technology and diagnostic tools. Applying current and emerging technology where it can have the biggest impact continues to make sense.

In addition, women with a 20-percent or greater lifetime risk for breast cancer should obtain an annual breast MRI.

Learn more about the differences of opinion regarding the recent changes to recommendations

News Releases & Media Coverage

November 17, 2009
New Breast Screening Guidelines Draw Opposition; Swedish's Position; Links to Related Info, Various Opinions

August 13, 2008
Swedish Breast Cancer Expert Interviewed about Breast Self Exams

December 13, 2007
Swedish-Affiliated Breast-Cancer Specialists Interviewed for Articles in The Seattle Times, P-I about a New Mammography Study

February 7, 2007
Swedish Cancer Institute Study Finds Patient-Detected Breast Cancer Has Higher Recurrence, Mortality Risk than Mammography-Detected Breast Cancer