A recent study showed that the number of breast cancers detected by mammography doubled between 1990 and 2008 in women ages 40-49. Moreover, the study, Malmberg JA, et al “Impact of mammography detection on the course of breast cancer in women aged 40 to 49 years” Radiology 2012; 262: 797-806., showed that mammography-detected breast cancer in this age group tended to be at an earlier stage. Earlier staging correlates with better survival.
This study flies in the face of controversial recommendations published by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force in 2009 which exclude women ages 40-49 from routine screening. Those recommendations suggest that physicians should determine whether women in this age group should get screening on a case-by-case basis.
A common type of medical negligence arises out of physicians’ delay in diagnosing breast cancer. Such delays allow early-stage, treatable breast cancers to advance to later, incurable stages thereby robbing women of any chance of survival. Clearly, women ages 40-49 should, at a minimum, be advised by gynecologists and primary care providers about the importance of mammographic screening, in addition to regular breast exams and self-examination.