Canadian study: Screening mammograms do not cut breast cancer deaths

A study published today in the journal BMJ says annual screening mammograms in women ages 40 to 59 do not reduce deaths from breast cancer any better than a physical examination or usual care.

Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., a consultant in the breast clinic at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, says one limitation of the study is that it was conducted at a time when film screen mammography was the standard. "We're now using digital mammography, which has much better detection and sensitivity in finding cancers early." she says.

Dr. Pruthi acknowledges that routine mammography screening is a controversial issue with no current consensus among groups within the medical community. "The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that we continue screening women in their 40s yearly," Dr. Pruthi says. "The U.S. United States Preventive Services Task Force has published data recommending routine screening beginning at age 50."

Dr. Pruthi recommends that women take an individualized approach in which they talk to their doctors and weigh the risks and benefits of screening, taking into account their health, family histories and personal preferences.

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