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ACOG plans consensus conference on uniform guidelines for breast cancer screening

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Confused about which guidelines for breast cancer screening to follow in average-risk women? ACOG takes action with an upcoming consensus conference.



The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimates that 84% of breast cancers are found through mammography.1 Clearly, the value of mammography is proven. But controversy and confusion abound on how much mammography, and beginning at what age, is best for women.

Currently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all have differing recommendations about mammography and about the importance of clinical breast examinations. These inconsistencies largely are due to different interpretations of the same data, not the data itself, and tend to center on how harm is defined and measured. Importantly, these differences can wreak havoc on our patients’ confidence in our counsel and decision making, and can complicate women’s access to screening. Under the Affordable Care Act, women are guaranteed coverage of annual mammograms, but new USPSTF recommendations, due out soon, may undermine that guarantee.

On October 20, ACOG responded to the ACS’ new recommendations on breast cancer screening by emphasizing our continued advice that women should begin annual mammography screening at age 40, along with a clinical breast exam.2

Consensus conference plansIn an effort to address widespread confusion among patients, health care professionals, and payers, ACOG is convening a consensus conference in January 2016, with the goal of arriving at a consistent set of guidelines that can be agreed to, implemented clinically across the country, and hopefully adopted by insurers, as well. Major organizations and providers of women’s health care, including ACS, will gather to evaluate and interpret the data in greater detail and to consider the available data in the broader context of patient care.

Without doubt, guidelines and recommendations will need to evolve as new evidence emerges, but our hope is that scientific and medical organizations can look at the same evidence and speak with one voice on what is best for women’s health. Our patients would benefit from that alone.

ACOG’s recommendations, summarized

  • Clinical breast examination every year for women aged 19 and older.
  • Screening mammography every year for women aged 40 and older.
  • Breast self-awareness has the potential to detect palpable breast cancer and can be recommended.2

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