Canadian Breast Cancer Screening Study
A new mammography study from Canada – the Canadian National Breast Screening Study – is getting attention today for its conclusions about the value of regular mammography screening in reducing mortality from breast cancer. This study adds to a growing body of evidence that mammography is an imperfect screening tool for breast cancer. We agree. It is based on 1950s technology, and can lead in some cases to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of breast cancers. The problems with mammography have been established for many years.
The more important question, and the one we ask every time one of these studies is released, is what we can do to provide women with more reliable and cost-effective tests to detect breast cancer. Once detected, we need tests that can tell us, with more certainty, which tumors are likely to become invasive and which might not require extensive treatment. The search for better early detection methodologies is an important focus for research.
This is why Komen has invested more than $33 million in early detection research, investigating tools like blood and tissue tests for breast cancer, and will continue to do so. Until we have those tools, we will continue to recommend that women have access to mammography, that they discuss their risk with their healthcare providers, and that they maintain a screening schedule that is right for them.
Despite the continuing debate over mammography, even the Canadian study authors acknowledge that “early diagnosis, and excellent clinical care” are important. We believe that early detection gives women and their healthcare providers more options for treatment.
We encourage all women to learn about their risk, discuss the right screening schedule for them with their doctors, know the look and feel of their breasts and report changes to their healthcare provider. Komen’s screening recommendations can be found at this link. An overview of Komen’s research into early detection can be found here.
About the author
Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S., is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Susan G. Komen®, responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization and for setting Komen’s strategic vision. Dr. Salerno brings extensive experience in research, public health policy and community health to the role. Before joining Komen, she was the Leonard D. Schaeffer Executive Officer of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies, serving as executive director and chief operating officer of the Institute.