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Conversation is important for breast cancer screening

Conversation is important for breast cancer screening


Breast cancer screening can be confusing. At what age should everyone have a screening mammogram? What are the benefits and risks? People deserve clear information.

There is no single answer to any of these important questions, as the individual’s medical history, patient preferences, and values ​​must be discussed with health care providers in a process called shared decision-making.

More than 28,000 women in Canada are expected to develop breast cancer and 5,500 will die this year. However, more effective treatments have improved the outlook for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Screening, which involves using a special x-ray called a mammogram to check the breasts for signs of cancer before symptoms appear, can help detect cancer before it gets too advanced. .

In 2018, Canadian Task Force on Preventive Medicine published guidelines For breast cancer screening in average-risk individuals aged 40-74 years. It aims to help people understand both the benefits and harms of screening and provides the best evidence-based recommendations.

Simply put, after the age of 40, it is always a personal choice whether or not to get screened, based on personal preference and discussion with your healthcare provider. Breast cancer risk increases with age. Up to age 74, the older you get, the more likely the benefits of screening outweigh the harms.

This guideline does not apply to individuals with a personal or strong family history of breast cancer, or those at increased risk of breast cancer, such as carriers of genetic mutations.

In Canada, different provinces and territories have different recommended age ranges for breast cancer screening. Some states recommend screening at 40, while others recommend starting at 50.

So why not just take a mammogram?

Screening can lead to false positives. This is a test that returns a positive result when there is actually no disease. This can lead to anxiety and even more unnecessary investigations and more invasive tests such as biopsies. indicates that it is not For some people, this means life-changing treatments they never needed.

The task force has created a resource to help patients and providers have conversations

New scientific research is evolving our knowledge of the harms and benefits of screening. The Task Force will review the Guidelines every five years to provide new and updated information. Mammography guidelines will be reviewed in 2023.

But for now, the guidance is valid. Those who wish to have a mammogram should have it by sharing the decision with their healthcare provider.

Brenda Wilson is co-chair of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Wendy Levinson is Chair of Choosing Wisely Canada. Jennifer Young is a Consultant Physician at the Canadian College of Family Medicine.




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