Newswise — The breast cancer screening guidelines proposed yesterday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) would result in thousands of additional and unnecessary breast cancer deaths each year, according to radiologists at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

The USPSTF, which is a group of independent health experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services, proposed that women between the ages of 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years. The group reported that the decision to start screening mammography in women prior to age 50 should be an individual one. The task force cited issues with mammography screening, including overdiagnosis, overtreatment and false-positive tests as reasons to not screen earlier.

“One in six breast cancers occurs in women in their 40s, and years of research clearly support the use of annual screening mammography in women beginning at age 40,” said Kathleen Ward, MD, medical director of breast imaging and women’s health imaging, LUHS. “Screening women beginning in their 50s every other year would lead to a much greater risk of advanced stage disease at the time of diagnosis.”

Since mammography screening became widespread in the mid-1980s, the U.S. breast cancer death rate has dropped 35 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. Loyola radiologists report that under these guidelines thousands of women would experience more extensive and expensive treatments than if their cancers were found early by annual screening mammogram. Adoption of these USPSTF recommendations also could affect insurance coverage of mammograms for women ages 40 and older.

“These guidelines create a potential financial barrier to a woman’s right to decide when she wants a mammogram,” said Davide Bova, MD, medical director of diagnostic radiology, Loyola University Health System. “If a screening mammogram becomes an out-of-pocket expense due to these recommendations, countless lives will be lost.”

Loyola University Health System radiologists follow the American Cancer Society recommendations to screen every woman annually beginning at age 40. This recommendation also is endorsed by the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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