In light of the recent the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) proposal, I immediately think of my 46 year-old patient, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, after routine annual screening. I call her one of my “favorites” and look forward to seeing her each year. We get to talk, laugh, share mothering notes, parenting beautiful daughters. This year, I gave her extra hugs, and comforting words, as I referred her to a breast surgeon. How did this happen? She had no family history, no breast concerns, and was definitely not in a high risk category. But, a 6 mm invasive breast cancer was detected with 3D mammography. At least it was early, and the interventions allowed the option of breast conservation. My patient is thankful that she was referred for routine screening, annually.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Approximately 40,000 women die from breast cancer each year, with as many as 10,000 deaths from cancer that potentially could have been diagnosed with screening mammography prior to the age of 50. These thousands of women represent mothers, sisters, wives and friends. They are my patients. Yet in its new recommendations the USPSTF demonstrated it believes these numbers are insignificant. (more…)