Providers, patients resisting controversial mammo recommendation

While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) created quite a bit of lingering controversy three years ago when it recommended against routine mammogram screening for women between the ages of 40 and 49, a new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston suggests there remains quite a bit of resistance to the USPSTF findings.

The study, published in the April 19 online edition of the journal Cancer, analyzed data from about 28,000 women asked about their mammography use in the 2005, 2008 and 2011 National Health Surveys. The researchers, led by Lydia Pace, M.D., a global women's health fellow in the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's, found that mammography rates grew at a statistically insignificant rate between 2008 and 2011 (51.9 to 53.6 percent) for all women, and for women between the ages of 40 and 49 (46.1 to 47.5 percent).

According to Pace, had the recommendations been widely adopted, the researchers would have seen a significant decline in mammography rates, particularly among women between the ages of 40 and 49.

"Our research does not explain the reasons why mammography rates did not decline, but it is worth noting that several prominent professional and advocacy organizations continue to recommend mammography screening for women between the ages of 40 and 49," Pace said in an announcement. "Providers may disagree with the USPSTF recommendations or they may not have the time or the tools needed for discussions with patients about the relative benefits and harms of mammography. Patients may also disagree with the recommendations and may still be requesting annual mammograms or self-referring to mammography facilities."

Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, made a similar point to the Huffington Post about different organizations disagreeing with the USPSTF recommendations.

"We still have respected organizations that have fundamentally different recommendations when it comes to screening mammography," Lichtenfeld told the Post. "The task force has its position, the American Cancer Society and other organizations have a different position, and both sides on this discussion believe that the evidence is in their favor."

To learn more:
- read the abstract in Cancer
- see the announcement
- read the article in the Huffington Post

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