Response from the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation on the New Breast Cancer Guidelines
On November 17, 2009 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provided new recommendations for the use of mammography as a screening tool for breast cancer. The committee was comprised of both medical and non-medical professionals. The recommendations were based on the examination of scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of this tool for both screening for breast cancer as well as survival once diagnosed with the disease.
The Task Force found when looking at data from the past 20 years that while more women were being diagnosed with breast cancer and more women were being diagnosed with early stage disease, when comparing mortality from breast cancer the data remains unchanged. This means in 2009 we have the same number of people dying of breast cancer as we did in the 1980’s despite more people being screened with mammography. Obviously we have not achieved the important goal of reducing deaths from breast cancer despite our improved technology with mammography and improved use of mammography for screening for breast cancer.
Anytime new recommendations are made with regard to a change in health care practice, concern and fear are likely to arise. After all, there has been a push for mammography screening for early breast cancer detection for the last 20 years. What is important to note is that the recommendations for women who have had breast cancer as well as those who are at risk for developing breast cancer remain unchanged. Annual mammography screening is still recommended for this population. It is also important to note that this is the recommendation of an independent task force. The recommendations by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) have not changed at this point in time.
The Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation’s position on this recommendation is that women should continue to follow the advice of their health care practitioner. In addition, as we always promote, women should continue to advocate for themselves when it comes to their health care. Miles of Hope is a not for profit foundation providing support services for people residing in the eight counties of the Hudson Valley who have been affected by breast cancer.
Cathy Varunok, Co-Founder, Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation; Occupational Therapist, Dyson Center for Cancer Care, Vassar Brothers Medical Center; St. Francis Hospital