Docs who fail to tell women of “harms from screening”
| The Globe and Mail – Women do NOT need to follow a rigid schedule for breast cancer screening and doctors should inform patients of the potential risks mammograms pose, according to new national screening guidelines released Monday.
The new guidelines recommend women aged 50 to 74 who don’t have a family history or other factors that put them at increased risk of breast cancer get mammograms every two to three years, but with a caveat: The decision to have a mammogram should be based on “the relative value that a woman places on possible benefits and harms from screening.”
In other words, women should decide for themselves, with guidance from their health-care provider, whether to get screened.
Similar to earlier guidelines published in 2011, the new ones do not recommend breast screening for women under age 50 who are not at an increased risk of breast cancer because the evidence shows the potential risks outweigh the benefits. Breast Cancer Surgery May Increase the Chance of Cancer Spreading
“In the past, it has been more of a tick box, an automatic, you’re this age and you head for a mammogram,” said Donna Reynolds, a family physician who is a member of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care that wrote the guidelines. “We need to do a better job of informing women about the risks and the benefits of having [screening mammograms].”
The guidelines, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reflect a growing trend in health care to reduce unnecessary screening, tests or procedures that may have limited benefit.
In the case of breast cancer, screening mammograms can help detect the disease in some women, but others may experience false positives and unnecessary follow-up tests and treatments as a result.
Mammograms also come with the risk of overdiagnosis – they may detect some forms of cancer that would never have developed into a significant health risk. Read more.