Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mammography at 40

Recently the American College of Physicians (The Organization of Internal Medicine/ACP) released guidelines regarding mammography at 40 years of age. Until now the ACP guidelines were everyone 40 and over gets mammography. There is very little good literature that supports this previous recommendation, yet the American Cancer Society, ASCO, and ACOG still recommend that every woman 40 and above gets a mammo every 1-2 years. The ACP found that in their analysis the conclusion was "Although few women 50 years of age or older have risks from mammography that outweigh the benefits, the evidence suggests that more women 40 to 49 years of age have such risks." After reading the study and looking at the guidelines, they are not that drastic. Key Point Include

  • Women 40-49 should have routine risk assessments for breast cancer risk. What is increased risk?
  • 2 first degree relatives with breast cancer
  • One with breast cancer and a previous breast biopsy(the patient)
  • Previous breast cancer
  • Previous noncancerous breast gland changes(DCIS, atypical hyperplasia)
  • Prior chest irradiation (for cancers/not for a chest xray)
  • BRCA1 or 2 mutations or family members with these mutations
  • Physicians should inform these 40-49 year old women of the risks and benefits of mammography. What are the risks?
  • False positive results (never shown to cause psychiatric problems:anxiety, depression etc.)
  • Radiation exposure
  • False reassurance from missed tumor
  • Clinicians should base their screening mammography decisions on the woman's preference and risk profile.

The Gene Sherpa says: If you are younger than 50 mammography should be a collaborative choice between the physician and the patient. The problem?....When has a physician used a risk assessment tool to evaluate a patient for breast cancer? Sure cancer geneticists do this. But Internists? Sounds like we need some education for the internist, and for the patient. Would you get the mammogram?

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