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Mammograms Down Since Task Force Report

June 28, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Screening mammogram rates for women in their 40s went down nearly 6 percent in the year after November 2009, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released still-controversial guidelines recommending against routine mammograms for women in that age group.

So says a Mayo Clinic study presented this week at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, which took place at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.

The researchers used a large, national representative database of 100 health plans. It included nearly 8 million women ages 40 through 64. The researchers  identified the number of screening mammograms performed from January 2006 through December 2010 and compared screening rates before and after the task force recommendations. The rate went down 5.72 percent after.

Nilay Shah, PhD, a co-author, summed up the findings:

For the first year after the guidelines changed, there was a small but significant decrease in the rate of mammography for women ages 40–49. This is consistent with the content of the guidelines change. A modest effect is also in line with the public resistance to the guidelines change and the subsequent release of conflicting guidelines.

Dr. Shah is a researcher at the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery in Rochester, Minnesota. He was quoted in a Mayo news release.

Mayo is among the entities with “conflicting guidelines.” It suggests a three-tiered approach:

  • Breast health awareness, meaning that women should become familiar with their breasts in order to notice as soon as possible any changes or abnormalities, and should inform their doctor of any changes that they think need evaluation
  • An annual clinical breast exam, performed by a health-care provider, beginning at age 40
  • Screening mammography beginning at age 40

Sandhya Pruthi, MD, a consultant at Mayo’s Breast Clinic, summed up Mayo’s position:

Screening mammography is not a perfect exam, but it is the best available tool to detect cancer early. Early detection can lead to better options and possibly less-aggressive treatments.

Related seminar:UCSF Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography (free domestic shipping for a limited time)

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