Health task force wants less breast cancer screening

A medical task force recommends less breast cancer screening for women in their forties

  • Thu Nov 24th, 2011 5:00pm
  • News

A medical task force recommends less breast cancer screening for women in their forties.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care released a paper earlier this week which advises doctors not to “systematically” check women who are at “average-risk” for breast cancer and between the ages of 40- and 49-years-old.

The task force “also discourages doctors from routinely physically examining women for breast cancer,” was written in a news release from Simon Fraser University (SFU). “Physicians should advise at average-risk women to not routinely examine themselves for the disease.”

Michel Joffres, a task force member and SFU health scientist said that the potential harm from screening women in this age group outweighs the benefits.

“Regular screening of this group leads to over diagnosis of breast cancer, resulting in unnecessarily heightened patient fear and anxiety,” said Joffres in the news release. “It also leads to unnecessary biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies and other interventions.”

However, the task force said the final decision should be left to women themselves.

Carrie Davison disagrees with these recommendations. She is a local breast cancer survivor; she was 32 when she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and had no history of breast cancer in her family.

“Obviously I am not a doctor but I have dealt with this disease first hand, and this worries me sick,” said Davison. “I would have fallen into that ‘average’ category and there is no way that I was ‘average.’”

For five years, Davison saw doctors who told her not to worry. She finally pushed them to give her an ultra sound before she was diagnosed with the disease. By then, her tumour had become the size of a golf ball. But, the lump was originally found in a check-up by her doctor.

“She felt the tumour but I still couldn’t at that time,” said Davison.

BC Cancer Agency’s Janette Sam said that the current screening policy is still in place in the province and women aged 40-79 years old can book a mammography directly through the Screening Mammography Program of BC without a doctor’s referral.