American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines for Breast Cancer: Baby Step Toward Evidence-Based Recommendations

BCA_logo_CMYK_box_urlSAN FRANCISCO, CA: Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), the nationally respected watchdog for the breast cancer movement, today welcomed the long overdue step the American Cancer Society (ACS) took in following the evidence on screening with the release of their updated guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening for Women at Average Risk after decades of aggressively promoting outdated recommendations.

“Sadly, many women have been harmed by the sluggishness of the nation’s largest cancer charities to follow the evidence on routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk. The reality is tens of thousands of women each year would have been spared the harms of overtreatment if the ACS and other large cancer organizations had followed the evidence sooner, rather than continuing to push outdated messages about routine mammography screening,” said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action.

The new ACS guidelines recommend that women at average risk of breast cancer undergo regular screening mammography starting at age 45, five years later than their previous recommendation of age 40. The updated guidelines recommend that women aged 45-54 years should be screened annually and women 55 years and older should transition to biennial screening, bringing the ACS in closer alignment to the United States Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.

“After years of relentlessly promoting annual mammography for women age 40 and older and overstating the benefits of early detection, the ACS is finally starting to follow the evidence on the limitations of routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk,” said Karuna Jaggar.

By acknowledging that with their new recommendations the “balance of benefits and harms will be close” for many women considering screening mammography, Jaggar noted, “The ACS is finally acknowledging the limited benefits and significant harms of routine mammography screening for women at average risk of breast cancer. The very real harms include overdiagnosis and overtreatment, the consequences of which women live with for the rest of their lives.”

Women seeking unbiased, accessible information about the harms and benefits of routine mammography screening can download Breast Cancer Action’s free brochure: “Should I Get a Mammogram? Understanding the Harms and Benefits of Routine Breast Cancer Screening” at http://bcaction.org/resources/breast-cancer-action-toolkits/.

Breast Cancer Action has been vocal leader in evidence-based health care for 25 years and for years has called the ACS and others to task for failing to consider the harms along with the much-touted benefits of routine breast cancer screening programs.

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Breast Cancer Action (www.bcaction.org) is a national education and advocacy nonprofit organization whose mission is to achieve health justice for all women at risk of and living with breast cancer. BCAction has a strict conflict of interest policy and refuses to accept corporate funding from companies or organizations that profit from or contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

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