Physician recommendations about breast cancer screening vary, survey finds


According to the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, physician recommended breast-screening practices vary depending on their own specializations and trust in different screening guidelines. A hotly debated topic among professional societies, the optimal times and frequencies for screening has not been firmly established.

Since physician recommendation is one of the most important factors influencing whether patients undergo screening and when, a recently published study sought to understand what promotes physicians to adhere to one recommendation over another.

  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women 40 and up undergo yearly routine mammograms.
  • The American Cancer Society’s new post-2015 guidelines encourage routine mammograms for women 45 and up, and personalized screening decisions to be made for women between ages of 40 and 44.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s new post-2016 guidelines encourages personalized screening decisions to be made for women between ages 40 to 49


Of 2,000 randomly surveyed primary care or general gynecologic care physicians, the findings showed a roughly equal distribution of guideline trusting. Those trusting the former two were significantly more likely to recommend screening practices to women below the age of 45. A total of 81 percent of physicians recommended screening to women ages 40 to 44, and 88 percent recommended screening for women ages 45 to 49. Only 67 percent recommended screening to women 75 or older.


Study co-author Craig Pollack noted that changes in cancer screening guidelines can be “challenging for doctors and patients,” especially when recommendations to change to favor screening less frequently, “telling people to do less” than what they had been previously accustomed to doing.


The discrepancies in opinions in the guidelines are due to comparing the potential positives and negatives of screening. Increased screening has the potential to help the early detection of cancer, but can also lead to false positives.


In our office, since our patients have access to the latest breast imaging technology and access to some of the most highly trained breast radiologists in the country, we recommend annual screening at age 40 by mammogram, mammogram with automated breast ultrasound, or 3D mammography.   Of course, every woman has her own circumstances and priorities. We also offer Brevagen testing for low risk women or women with no access to their family histories to help guide screening decisions. We welcome you to bring this up at your next well woman exam.


El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, and Pooja Gupta, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecgologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano is also a graduate of a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.


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