Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, no matter their race or ethnicity. As someone who is working as an obstetrician and gynecologist, breast screening is probably something that you do often. You know that it is important to screen patients for breast cancer, so make sure you are up-to-date on the standard protocol for doing so. In June 2017 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated recommendations for physicians on how and when to conduct breast screenings on average-risk women, or women who are not at high-risk for developing breast cancer. For example, women who have a history of breast cancer in their family would be considered high-risk, not average-risk.
Check out the newest guidelines for breast screening and make sure you are doing the best that you can for your patients.
Obstetricians and Gynecologists: New Guidelines for Breast Screening
The new breast screening guidelines were updated to emphasize the shared decision-making between the patient and provider – meaning that although it is ultimately the patient’s choice whether or not they want to be screened, there are things the provider can do to guide the patient to make the best decisions for their health.
The former guidelines encouraged obstetricians and gynecologists to annually perform mammography screenings on average-risk women starting at age 40, but the guidelines have been revised to include more detail about older and younger women.
The guidelines state that physicians shouldn’t stop the conversation after their 40-year-old patients decline breast screenings. Continue to encourage them to have a mammography screening. Let them know that if they don’t feel the need to do it at age 40, they should at least have their first breast screening by age 50. The new guidelines also remind physicians that female patients should be screened every one to two years, depending on their preference. If they are over the age of 55, screening every two years is reasonable. Patients should be screened until they are at least 75 years of age. At that point, it’s important to have a discussion with your patient about their current health and life expectancy, and then together decide if screening needs to continue. What about younger patients? Screening can be offered to women who are 25-39 years old every one to three years, with screenings increasing in frequency as they age. Make sure all of your female patients understand the potential benefits and harms of screening.
Benefits of Breast Screening
The obvious benefit of screening for breast cancer is that it helps to detect cancer early, and the patient will have a higher chance of treating it and recovering. Of course, there are always risks involved in any medical testing. In this case, some risks include false positive test results, pain, and radiation exposure from the mammography.
Dangers of Not Having a Breast Screening
The danger of not having a breast screening is first and foremost, not detecting cancer early enough and having to undergo cancer treatment, surgery, and potentially face death.
Annually in the U.S., an estimated 220,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and it plagues about 2,000 men. Each year, about 40,000 women and 400 men die from breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.