Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Mammography Guidelines Issued

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a recommendation that women with no underlying risk factors for breast cancer wait until they are 50 before getting regular mammograms. Previously, the recommended age for the screening was 40. There has been widespread debate about the recommendation since the release of the report last week, and according to some experts, research needs to be balanced with the anecdotal evidence.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Associate Professor of English Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D. studies how breast cancer is portrayed in the media and is the author of a forthcoming book on the rhetoric of breast cancer in popular women’s magazines.

“I think that news coverage on this recent debate has been fairly effective, but as expected, there is room for readers to misinterpret what they are reading,” says Ryan, who points to two New York Times articles published on the same day: one dealing with the findings of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) arguing that routine mammograms should begin after age 49, and another article offering one woman’s stance that early mammograms save lives.

“I’d say the media is doing a decent job of covering both sides of the debate,” says Ryan. “What can be problematic for readers, however, is the seeming contradiction between two polarized perspectives: either keep the screening guidelines the same or change them.

“Consumers are best able to make sound decisions about their health when these polarized messages are integrated and reflect the complexity of the disease,” she says. “It’s not an either-or conversation.”

Ryan says that when confronted with extreme representations, there is a part of the human brain that wants to go with scientific study “because we figure it must be credible and rational,” she says. “But another part of our brain embraces anecdotal advice that links the message with a face.

“Not surprisingly, consumers are torn. But informed health consumers have to take in both kinds of evidence. Both are credible and offer a needed perspective that can affect decision-making.”

The bottom line, says Ryan: Look at all of the evidence, the research and the anecdotes as part of one big conversation as opposed to conflicting advice. You’ll be better informed when making a decision that’s right for you.

“Read all of the coverage,” she says. “Talk to your doctor. Know your risk factors. Understand that you are going to face different kinds of advice and you have to weigh those and determine what the best choices are for you.”

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham, 11/18/2009
Keywords: mammography, mammogram, mamography, mamogram

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