World’s Largest Breast Cancer Organization Reiterates that
Screening Should Be Based on Individual Risk and is Decision for Women
and their Health Care Providers
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Susan G. Komen® breast cancer organization today said that all women
should have access to regular mammograms when they and their health care
providers decide that it is the right time for screening based on
individual risk for breast cancer, and that the screening tests should
be covered by third-party payers such as insurance companies and
Komen’s statement came following the release of new American Cancer
Society (ACS) screening guidelines, published today in the Journal of
the American Medical Association (JAMA).
In the guidelines, ACS raised its recommended age for annual screening
mammograms from 40 to 45 for women of average risk for breast cancer,
with biennial mammography for women 55-74. The U.S. Preventive Services
Task Force (USPSTF) also has drafted guidelines that would raise the
recommended age for regular mammography to 50 for women of average risk.
“We have a great deal of respect for the ACS and the USPSTF, their
expert committees and their thorough review of the scientific literature
to inform the current guidelines. Although guidelines may differ
regarding the age at which routine screening should begin, there is
agreement that mammography is the best available tool for detecting
breast cancer and that women and their health care providers should
decide when those screenings should begin for individuals,” said Dr.
Judy Salerno, President and CEO of Susan G. Komen.
Salerno said that the continuing debate over the timing of mammography
fails to address several important issues.
“First, the medical field is moving toward determining individual needs
for screening based on a woman’s risk, such as family history of breast
cancer. Ultimately, women must have better and more accurate information
about their individual risk for breast cancer so that they and their
providers can make informed decisions about the screening schedule that
is right for them. Knowledge is power,” she said. Information about
breast cancer risk
is available on komen.org.
“Second, it is estimated that about one-third of women who should be
screened do not access these services. This means that we must take all
steps necessary to ensure that women don’t face economic or other
barriers when their health care providers recommend screening. It’s well
established that early detection, combined with effective treatment,
reduces mortality from breast cancer.”
“Third – and this is a point we’ve made often – we absolutely must
continue to invest in finding screening methods that are more accurate,
cost-effective, easy-to-administer, and more widely available than
mammography,” Salerno said. Komen has invested more than $33 million to
date into research to find better screening technology for breast
cancer, such as blood and tissue tests.
The ACS recommendations are not binding on health care providers or
payers, Salerno noted, “but we are concerned that they have the
potential to lead to reduced accessibility to and coverage for health
screenings from both private and public insurers.”
In addition to its new recommended screening ages, ACS said clinical
breast exams – the manual palpation of the breast and axilla (underarm)
by trained health care providers – are no longer necessary as they did
not reduce mortality from breast cancer and because better screening
tools, such as mammography, are available. Clinical breast exams are
usually conducted during routine “well woman” doctor visits, often
beginning when a woman is in her 20s.
“As a practical matter, clinical breast exams take very little time, are
not invasive, and may be the only form of breast screening available,
especially in rural areas and for younger women who are not at an age
when regular mammography would be indicated,” Salerno said, adding that
more information is needed on the efficacy of clinical breast exams.
Salerno said Komen and its scientific advisors will closely review the
ACS recommendations, including mammography and clinical breast exams.
She acknowledged concerns about “overtreatment” for breast lesions or
tumors that are found early but might not develop into cancer. “This is
a real issue, but one that also requires education, so that women can
have discussions with their health care providers about the course of
cancer treatment that is right for them. And more research is needed to
help determine which women may go on to have invasive cancer. A woman
cannot make a decision about treatment, however, if she hasn’t been
Komen also is investing in research
that would allow health care providers to accurately differentiate
between breast lesions that will become cancerous, and those that won’t.
About Susan G. Komen®
Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization,
funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while
providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Since its founding
in 1982, Komen has funded more than $889 million in research and
provided $1.95 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and
psychosocial support programs serving millions of people in more than 30
countries worldwide. Komen was founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised
her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed
Suzy’s life. Visit komen.org
or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. Connect with us on social at ww5.komen.org/social
Susan G. Komen
Andrea Rader, 972-855-4382