Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talk to your doctor about whether to have a mammogram

With recent studies casting doubt on when and if women should have mammograms, the Colorado Department of Public Health recommends women speak with their health care providers to make the best decision.

“With all the public confusion over mammograms, we want to make it clear that no one knows a woman’s medical needs better than her health care provider,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer. “When you’re thinking about getting screened for breast cancer, we recommend you talk it over with your doctor, learn about the risks and benefits, and then make the decision that is right for you.”

The findings of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study published in the British Medical Journal on Feb. 11 vary from current breast cancer screening recommendations. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the use of screening mammography for breast cancer every two years for women ages 50 to 74 years. For women younger than age 50 years, the task force calls mammography an individual decision, taking into account a woman’s personal situation and values.

The state health department and its partners strive to follow screening and treatment methods proven to prevent breast cancer. The task force develops screening recommendations for breast cancer based on reputable scientific studies and rigorously reviews its recommendations every five years. Such a review is underway now and will include the Canadian study.

In the meantime, the health department recommends women make informed decisions with their health care providers based on their personal values. They should understand the risks of breast cancer, the benefits of screening and the alternatives available.

The health department, through its Women’s Wellness Connection, provides support to low-income women who want to get screened for breast cancer. Any woman who has questions or concerns about breast and cervical cancer screening, can contact Emily Kinsella at or 303-692-2511.

Health care providers and patients can find a complete description of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force breast cancer screening recommendations at

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