Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wait until 50 for mammograms


We seem to make cancer screening recommendations only to realize that we are wrong. Breast self-exams are not beneficial so we should not be telling out patients to do them. Mammograms should start at age 50, not 40. False positive results end up leading to further unnecessary tests, biopsies, etc. However, what about those few people who get diagnosed with breast cancer early? At what point is screening "cost-effective?" That's a critical question since screening tests cost money.

So, who do we follow? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) or the American Cancer Society (ACS)? Who's right? Could they both be right?

As these issues are debated, patients and health care professionals will be left confused. Without the presence of a clear consistent message, people will be left to interpret things for themselves and we will end up with chaos.

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