Forbes, "The Problem With The New Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations"January 15, 2016< Back To News
Guest post written by Daniel Kopans, Professor, Harvard Medical School
As a doctor, I am charged with improving and protecting the health of my patients. No one doubts my mandate. But a Washington task force is doing its level best to make the job harder and jeopardize the lives of women. In a baffling and inexplicable move, this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued final breast screening recommendations, stating that women aged 40 to 49 years do not need mammograms, and instead can wait until age 50 to begin screenings every other year. (Editor’s note: Dr. Kopans has received funding from GE and Siemens.)
Ironically, the task force has emphasized that it accepts the fact that the most lives will be saved by annual screening starting at age 40. Nevertheless, it continues to support delaying mammograms until age 50 and then only screening biennially because it claims to have “weighed” the “harms” vs. the benefits and has concluded that the “harms” outweigh the benefits for women ages 40 to 49. What will likely be missed by the media is the fact that the task force provided no scale for these comparisons. The main “harm” they cite is recalling a woman from screening (which they call “false positives”) to take a few extra pictures or an ultrasound to look at something suspicious on the screening mammogram and make certain it is nothing to worry about. The USPSTF does not explain how many fewer recalls outweigh the number of lives lost, lives that could be saved by annual screening starting at the age of 40. The media will also ignore the fact that no one on the USPSTF provides care for women with breast cancer. Experts in breast cancer screening were specifically excluded.