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The Breast Cancer Screening Debate

admin - October 9, 2013



breast cancer screening

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer in women. Approximately 12 percent of American women, which is one out of every eight, will develop invasive breast cancer within her lifetime. Early detection saves lives, but knowing when and how often to screen is a challenge, as the recommendations vary from one organization to the next.

Mammography is the most common way to detect early stage breast cancers. The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network both recommend screening every year starting at age 40. The National Cancer Institute recommends every one to two years starting at age 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, however, recommends every two years starting at age 50. This incongruity has led to a nation-wide debate on which timetable to follow.

The rationale behind the later age is the fact that screening starting at age 40 can create false positives. Interestingly, USPSTF analysis actually showed that the most lives were saved when screening began at age 40, but the group decided that the “false positive” potential, and the stress it caused, outweighed the lives saved.

Another potential issue raised by those in favor of the later screening date was the potential for the diagnosis of cancers that weren’t clinically important. Dr. Daniel Kopans of Harvard Medical School indicates that there is no scientific evidence that over-diagnosis occurs with early screening.
So what does this debate boil down to? First, in randomized, controlled trials, research shows that early screening saves lives. Second, cancers don’t stop growing, so annual screening versus screening every two years also saves lives.

Also the death rate from breast cancer has dropped since screening was introduced. When screening began in the 1980s, the death rate dropped for the first time in half a century. Finally, Dr. Kopans’ research found that 70 percent of the women he studied who died of breast cancer were among the 20 percent of the population that were not being screened. This indicates that screening is a factor in successful treatment.

Early screening for all types of life-threatening health conditions saves lives. Life Line Screening offers affordable and painless screening options for several types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and several other conditions. Take advantage of the control preventive screening gives you by providing early detection of a health problem or valuable peace of mind.




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