It is my personal opinion that a new announcement by the United States Preventive Services Task Force which advises that women without unusual cancer risks need not begin regular screening for breast cancer until age fifty, and which suggests that doctors stop advising women to perform self breast exams is a step backwards.
Over the years I have read about, attended lectures from and met many women of all ages who have benefited from either self exams or mammogram screenings which allowed them to discover, obtain accurate diagnosis and to undergo the appropriate treatment for breast cancer. Many of these women reported no previous history of breast cancer in their families. Without the preventive recommendation and screening techniques that have been stressed for the past twenty or more years these women would not have been aware of these cancers and most likely would not have received the treatment they needed.
Age has not been a significant factor in the women I have mentioned. I have met women in their late twenties, thirties through their seventies who have benefited from mammogram screening and/or self exam to discover early breast cancer; they all benefited from early detection and treatment. I also had one friend who was diagnosed in her early forties however, and did not survive; she left behind two lovely children and a grieving husband. Mammography is not a cure, but, it certainly seems to be a wonderful tool in detecting some breast cancers early allowing women to seek and begin the treatment that is best for them.
Why would anyone, any agency, any task force take a backward step when we may just be beginning to understand the very benefits of such programs? Although the mammogram screening has been being provided as a valuable tool, it has changed over the years, and has become more affordable and available to more and more women. Self exam has been included in more and more programs for women, men and couples. More awareness has been focused on men and the need for self exams. Breast cancer does not only strike women; men are becoming more aware of the risk also.
I should think that mammography is a preventative treatment that should be continued. I think that doctors should determine the necessity of such preventive screenings aided by personal and scientific evidence and study.
My personal experience with friends and family members, as well as information I have gained through reading and attending lectures certainly bolsters my opinion that mammography is a valuable tool that has been saving lives. These same experiences and knowledge gained also cause me to feel that age is not a factor that limits the screening; surely the numbers of cancers detected may be higher with age, however, lives saved as a result of screening more age groups, and identifying these cancers early in younger women, is a benefit to individuals, families and society as a whole.