The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has drafted new recommended guidelines for mammograms to start at age 40. Kimberley Herner, MD, family medicine physician and Valley’s Chief Quality Officer discusses the proposed changes. Watch the video or read the article below.
Learn more about Valley’s Breast Center.
(0:18) What is the recent news about breast cancer screening and why is it important?
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has new recommended guidelines for breast cancer screening. They now recommend that we start breast cancer screening at age 40 and then continue screening every two years after that. This is still in draft form but is expected to be finalized in the coming year.
The former recommendation by the USPSTF was to start screening between ages 50 and 75, then every other year after that. They also recommend that you begin having that conversation with your provider between the ages of 40 and 49, to decide what age makes the most sense for you.
(1:11) What is the U.S Preventive Services Task Force and what is their role?
The USPSTF is a group of national leaders who are experts in preventive medicine and evidence-based medicine. Evidence-based medicine is where people look at current research on a topic and how it’s applied, to really understand the pros and cons, as well as harms and benefits to the patient. They have made the current breast cancer screening recommendation based on the newest research. This shows that the recommendation has gone from a C grade to a B grade, which means that there’s more benefits than potential harm to early screening. The American Academy of Family Physicians also fully supports the USPSTF screening recommendations.
(2:12) What are the reasons for the change in the new breast cancer screening recommendations?
Breast cancer screening saves lives; we know that early detection leads to better outcomes. Also, the newest research includes younger women, so this is a good time to change that recommendation.
(2:39) What is the likelihood that a person will get breast cancer?
The risks of getting breast cancer is about 13% for people who have breasts. In the United States:
- One in eight people may get a breast cancer diagnosis
- Breast cancer is the second most common cancer
- Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death
- In 2022, about 43,000 people died from breast cancer
Also, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, so it’s important that we start screening Black women at age 40.
(3:17) What are the benefits and risks of breast cancer screening for people in their 40s?
Benefits: Breast cancer screening is used to find breast cancer early. The earlier we find it, the better outcomes a person has. If we find breast cancer early, there are better options and treatment, and the survival rate is 99% in about five years.
Potential harm: False positives (when test results show something not normal, but no cancer is found on later tests) can happen, which can cause psychological harm. People may feel stressed or anxious, and they may need more procedures and testing.
All of this depends on a person’s individual history, as well as family history, and is a personal decision. Having a conversation with your provider can help you make the best decision for you.
(4:43) What can you tell us about the latest guidelines on doing breast self-exams?
It’s important for people who have breasts to understand what their breasts look and feel like. This helps you know whether there have been any changes or differences, including things like discharge. There is a website called Know Your Lemons that is helpful in showing you what to look for and when to reach out to your provider. If you notice any changes, it’s important to let your provider know so they can help you decide if you need more tests done.
(5:31) What are the current methods for breast cancer screening in diagnosis?
Currently, the most common is the mammogram, which is a low-dose x-ray, (low dose means a very small amount of radiation. Here at Valley, we use 3-D screening mammograms combined with our 2-D methods. We can also use an MRI and/or ultrasound, depending on your personal needs. Your provider can help you find the best test for you.
(6:11) Another related topic has recently come up in the news, that women who have dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer. What can you tell us about that?
When we say, “dense breasts,” we’re talking about how the breasts look on the mammogram, or x-ray. The level of density can vary and it’s not something that we can see on a physical exam. We know that women who have denser breasts have four to six times higher risk of getting cancer. Knowing you have breasts that are considered dense is important because it can make things more difficult to see on a mammogram. which This means it may be harder to find cancer as early as we could. All this information is important to consider when making decisions with your provider.