Benefits, Risks of Mammography Well-Established; Research Needed for Better Tools, says President and CEO of World’s Largest Breast Cancer Organization
DALLAS – April 1, 2014 – A report today on the benefits and risks of screening mammograms drives home the “conundrum” that women and doctors face in breast cancer screening, and adds urgency to find better tools to assess risk and detect the disease, according to the President and CEO of Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.
The study, reported today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes that the benefits of regular screening mammography been overestimated and that potential harms have been underestimated. Among the potential harms is the risk of over-diagnosing and over-treating women for tumors that would not have become clinically evident, the report said.
The study, however, which covered 50 years of mammography screening, also noted that mammography was associated with a 19 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths in women overall, and a 15 percent reduction for women in their 40s.
“This is the conundrum that women and their healthcare providers face when they’re making decisions about screening mammograms for women at average risk for breast cancer,” said Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S. “We know mammography's shortcomings. We're very concerned about the potential for over-diagnosis and over-treatment. But mammography is still the most widely available test that we have for now.”
Salerno agreed with the study’s authors that women and healthcare providers need better guidance to assess an individual’s risk for breast cancer. “We also need more accurate, sensitive and cost-effective screening tools such as blood or other tests that can detect cancer at very early stages, tell us which tumors are likely to become invasive and which might resolve without treatment,” she said.
Salerno said Komen continually evaluates the science around breast cancer screening but continues to recommend that annual mammography begin at age 40 for women of average risk. Women of all ages should talk to their health care providers about their individual risk for breast cancer and the screening tests that might be right for them. Komen’s screening recommendations can be found at this