Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Changes in Mammography Screening: Dr. Susan Love's Take

In a blog post yesterday, Dr. Susan Love noted that the current American standards for mammography are at odds with European models, yet are no more successful in saving lives. The new guidelines for mammography from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that women now get mammograms after age 50, rather than the current 40, and have them every other year, rather than yearly as is the current recommendation. Research, she says, supports this decision.

Mammograms, she says, find cancers that might even go away on their own, but are less successful at finding the more aggressive forms, which certainly would include triple negative:
We now know that there are at least five different kinds of breast cancer based on their molecular biology. Some breast tumors are so slow growing and are so unlikely to spread that they will never do any harm. Others grow and spread very quickly. The idea that they all can be “caught early” is wishful thinking. In fact screening is best at finding the “good ones” that might even disappear if left alone.

We should be to be vigilant, she says, in finding the cancer that need immediate treatment and are deadly rather than focusing so much attention on slow-growing, less threatening forms.

The goal of breast cancer screening should be this: to find the cancers that have the potential to kill you, so that an intervention is necessary and can make a difference. We need to stop finding the cancers that will never do anything, and stop over-treating women who have them.

Read her entire blog here.

1 comment:

deborah d. lattimore said...

I think Susan Love is nuts, and it's just shocking to me that she would take this position. I've never thought much of her book--and apparently she doesn't either. She hasn't bothered to update it since 2005, yet it keeps being touted as "the" breast cancer book. I think she does a horrible disservice to women everywhere by supporting this panel of idiots.