• Mayo Clinic Response to USPSTF Breast Cancer Screening Statement

woman covering breasts with crossed arms and open hands

In its newly-announced breast cancer screening recommendations, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says the decision to start mammography should be an individual one for women ages 40 to 49. Mayo Clinic agrees, but also recommends regular screening for a woman who says she's unsure how to proceed.

"The guidelines are important, but just as important is that the patient has the opportunity to visit with their doctor and find out what’s right for them. In essence, it’s an individualized, informed decision,” says Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., consulting physician at Mayo's Breast Diagnostic Clinic. "If you’re in doubt, then having a mammogram annually is appropriate."

Watch Dr. Pruthi here

The Task Force notes women in their forties have a lower incidence of breast cancer and denser breast tissue than older women, which can cause higher rates of false positive findings, and could lead to benign breast biopsies. Mayo Clinic acknowledges these factors, but believes the benefits of regular screening, including increased treatment options when breast cancer is detected early, outweigh the risks.

For women ages 50 to 74, the Task Force recommends screening every two years. Mayo Clinic recommends individualized decisions, but that the default schedule be for annual screening, so as to favor the survival benefit.

The Task Force found insufficient evidence to make a recommendation for women age 75 and older. For women who expect to live more than ten years, Dr. Pruthi recommends patients be counseled about continuing mammography. "You would want to have a conversation with your doctor about the benefits as well as the risks."

The USPSTF and Mayo Clinic stress these recommendations apply to women at average risk. Women with a parent, sibling or child with breast cancer are at a higher risk and may benefit more from earlier screening than average-risk women.

If you're concerned about when to start breast cancer screening and how often to repeat it, Dr. Pruthi advises you to work with your doctor to make an informed decision. Together you can decide what is best based on your personal preferences, medical history and individual breast cancer risk.

Journalists: Sound bites from Dr. Sandhya Pruthi are available in the downloads below.

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