Mammography screening down among younger women

Guideline recommendations by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force in 2009 that proposed that physicians no longer needed to recommend to women ages 40 to 49 that they get a screening mammography have begun to impact the number of yearly mammograms performed in this age group, according to two new studies. Both were presented this week at the American Roentgen Ray Society meeting in Chicago.

After the task force delivered its recommendations, researchers at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver said they saw a noticeable drop in mammograms among women in the younger range. "In the nine months after the guidelines, we saw 205 fewer women in the 40 to 49 age group than we did the previous year," said Lara Hardesty, MD, chief of breast imaging and the lead researcher for this study, in a statement.

Before the task force guidelines went into effect, 56 percent of physicians at Hardesty's hospital recommended annual screening for women 40 to 49, and 33 percent recommended screening every two years.

After the guidelines were issued? Twenty percent recommended annual screening for women in that same age bracket, with 18 percent recommending screenings every other year.

In another study at the University Hospitals at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, a retrospective review of the new screening guidelines "greatly concerned us--especially for our patients and primary physicians," said Donna Plecha, MD. "We know that when patients are screened earlier, they have a better prognosis for detection and treatment."

In the Case study, 108 cases of cancer were diagnosed among the 524 biopsies performed among a younger patient group that underwent a mammography.

Nancy Snyderman, MD, NBC's medical editor, points out that no one is denying women the right to get a mammogram, and that science is on a woman's side if she chooses to wait until age 50 to begin annual screening. Her take-home message, however, is that "women should listen to the controversy and make an informed rational decision about what is best for their health."

For more information:
- see the WebMD Health News article
- see the article