MEDIA ADVISORY: Yale Breast Cancer Experts Endorse Mammograms for Women in Their 40s

Yale Medical Group (YMG) and Yale Cancer Center (YCC) physicians are urging women not to change their breast cancer screening routines. Their recommendations come in the wake of a government task force report which reversed long accepted breast cancer screening guidelines and prompted a heated debate over when women should get mammograms. The physicians are available to speak to the media on this controversy.

“Patients should know that nothing has changed, and they shouldn’t stop doing what they’re doing,” says Liane Philpotts, M.D., chief of breast imaging for the YCC-Smilow Cancer Hospital Breast Cancer Program, in response to recommendations published in the November 17 Annals of Internal Medicine. Philpotts became especially concerned when some patients called to cancel their mammograms after the news broke.

“For breast cancer screening, mammograms are still the gold standard,” Philpotts said. “Out of all the tests in medicine, mammograms are the most widely studied tests to show a decrease in mortality. We know that if we don’t do mammograms for women in their 40s, we will definitely lose lives. Those younger women have a lot to lose. Many have young families and a lot of life ahead of them.”

Philpotts and YMG colleagues Lyndsay Harris, M.D and Donald Lannin, M.D., also of the YCC-Smilow Cancer Hospital Breast Cancer Program, all caution patients against making any sudden changes in their screening routines based on the task force recommendations.

All three physicians feel the benefits of routine mammography starting at age 40 still outweigh the risks, and many women over age 74 have healthy life spans ahead of them and probably benefit from continued screenings.

While the physicians agree with the panel that there is no good statistical evidence showing that self-exams reduce mortality, there is anecdotal evidence, says Harris. “We see women with breast cancer on a daily basis diagnosed after they found an abnormality conducting their own exam,” she says. “The bottom line is that when a patient detects a lump and her physician is concerned, then it needs to be further evaluated, and that’s the standard of care.”

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Media Contact

Helen Dodson: helen.dodson@yale.edu, 203-436-3984