Several medical organizations often draw up guidelines for disorders and diseases, and one of those guidelines is for breast cancer. The problem is, most medical guidelines contradict one another and frequently cause confusion for patients.
The American Cancer Society (ACS), for instance, has recently released an updated version of their guidelines for breast cancer screening. They suggest that women should start going through yearly mammograms at 45 years old and biennial mammograms at 55 years old. However, in 2003, the ACS previously recommended that women should get yearly mammograms at 40 years old to check for risks of breast cancer.
The shift in perception occurred when the ACS studied and questioned the benefits of yearly mammograms for young women, especially because most mammogram results for young women show false positives. The study said that these results only contribute to an increase in unnecessary procedures and biopsies.
In a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the ACS found there was no good evidence to support the hypothesis that younger women who underwent early and yearly mammograms lower mortality rates from breast cancer.
Dr. Nancy Keating, professor at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said that the actual clinical effects and the importance of short screening intervals for younger women still remain uncertain.
Keating also said that roughly 85 percent of women with breast cancer in their 40s and 50s would have died regardless of any mammogram screening.
Meanwhile, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) also recommends that women should go through annual mammograms at 50 years old. The guidelines from the USPSTF and the guidelines from the ACS once contradicted one another. Now that the ACS shifted their outlook, the USPSTF still hasn't changed their view regarding the matter.
"We both found that the benefit of mammography increases with age, with women in their 50s, 60s, and early 70s benefiting most from regular mammography screening," said the USPSTF, referring to the ACS' new guidelines.
The guidelines released by medical groups such as ACS and USPSTF help physicians and patients decide how to cure or manage the disease or disorder.
From a different vantage point, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) still believes that early mammogram screening is still beneficial. The group said that their recommendation is different from the ACS and USPSTF because of different interpretation of the data.
In January next year, the ACS, ACOG, USPSTF, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Radiology and other organizations will reevaluate research at the Breast Cancer Screening Conference in hopes that these groups will reach an agreement.
Photo : frankieleon | Flickr