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Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014

News

Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Women wary of change in mammography exams

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

By Margaret Harding
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
 

If Mary Beth Beggy followed the newest mammography recommendations, she's pretty sure she'd be dead.

Beggy, 42, of Mt. Lebanon had her first screening on her birthday in May. Doctors found a growth, which led to a biopsy, surgery and radiation treatment that ended last month.

"I have no family history of it," said Beggy, board president of the Cancer Caring Center in Bloomfield. "There was no reason why I would've had any concern. If I would've waited eight years and waited until I'm 50, I would've never survived."

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government panel of doctors and scientists, on Monday broke with the American Cancer Society's long-standing position and said most women in their 40s don't need mammograms after concluding that early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unnecessary biopsies without substantially improving survival rates. The panel recommended mammograms every two years starting at 50 and said breast self-exams do no good.

"The benefits are less and the harms are greater when screening starts in the 40s," said Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of the panel.

The American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, issued a statement challenging the panel's findings. "This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over," Brawley said.

Dr. William Poller, head of breast imaging at Allegheny General Hospital, said the task force's recommendation shocked him.

"It's just insanity that someone with one fell swoop is going to overturn the guidelines," said Poller, adding that about 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are younger than 50. "None of us have ever had a patient complain that, 'You did this unnecessary biopsy.' If that's the downside, so be it."

To read the rest of the story, please visit the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

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