I think there is a misconception in the way that the media and some women are interpreting the implications of the new USPSTF guidelines. The alternative to finding your cancer on a mammogram if you are under age 50 is not death. The alternative is finding the cancer by feeling a lump while in the shower, or poking around, or rolling over in bed. Many breast cancers found this way are still cured, as we have seen and heard from the many women interviewed in the media whose tumors were missed on mammography.
The more important issue is making sure that doctors take young women seriously when they complain about a change in their breasts. I wish that mammography was able to find the aggressive tumors often experienced by young women and African-American women at a curable point, but the data suggest that this is often not the case.
Screening is better at finding slow cancers at an â€œearly stageâ€ than fast growing ones. I wish that mammography screening of all women starting at age 40 was the answer to reducing deaths in young women of all races, but at this point the data does not support that conclusion. Using guidelines that are not supported by research is not going to give us the outcome we so desperately wantâ€”and end to this disease.