To the Editor:
The new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) breast cancer screening recommendations, released Jan. 11, will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year and thousands more women enduring extensive and expensive treatment than if their cancer had been found early by an annual mammogram.
To ensure access to mammography, Congress delayed for two years any changes to insurance coverage based on these recommendations, while breast cancer experts examined the recommendations and the process by which they were created. Women ages 40 and older and their families should continue to impress upon lawmakers and their health care providers that they want fully insured access to annual mammograms.
As medical director of the Breast Health Center at Mount Desert Island Hospital, I can state that our goal is to save the most lives possible from breast cancer. The center follows the lead of the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging and continues to recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
New American Cancer Society (ACS) breast cancer screening guidelines, and previous data used by the USPSTF to create its recommendations, state that annual screening in women 40 and older saves thousands more lives each year than screening at a later age and/or less frequent screening.
Following these USPSTF recommendations would result in lethal consequences for thousands of women each year. A recent study in the “British Medical Journal” confirms that early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography is critical for improving breast cancer survival, regardless of therapy advances.
Moving away from yearly screening in women 40 and older endangers women, would cause needless death and disfigurement of women and would simply not be good breast cancer screening policy.
Mammograms can detect cancer early when it’s most treatable and can be treated less invasively – which not only saves lives, but helps preserve quality of life.
Dr. John Benson
Breast Health Center