New Research Re-ignites Mammography Debate

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The national mammogram debate intensified this week with the release of a pair of studies that opened old wounds about the recommended frequency of preventive studies for women in their 40s.

A blog post from NPR’s Rob Stein compiles comments on both sides of the issue, including those from the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, which cautioned that mammograms can startle patients unnecessarily at the least or lead them to unneeded surgery at the worst.

On the other side of the issue is the argument that early detection saves lives by catching smaller tumors that could develop into bigger problems. The latest discussion centers on the notion that two critical factors—breast density and first-degree relative with cancer—warrant enough of a risk to mandate annual scans for a woman, regardless of her age.

With state and federal legislation pending that would mandate disclosure of breast density to every mammogram patient and potentially cover adjunctive scans for dense-breasted women, there is some sense that any legislative decision will follow a clinical consensus—if and when it emerges.