Mammograms to Get Scrutiny of Cancer Panel Group Hoping for Consensus on Breast Exam

Article excerpt

Breast cancer specialists are hoping that the National Cancer

Advisory Board, which meets today in Rockville, Md., will

succeed where another panel failed and come up with specific

recommendations about when women should receive mammograms.

An advisory panel of the National Institutes of Health, after

three days of hearings in January, could not reach a consensus

on the issue. Instead, the panel recommended that women consult

their doctors.

That conclusion startled breast cancer experts who had expected

the panel, in light of new Swedish data, to recommend that

starting at age 40 women routinely have breast X-rays.

The Swedish data showed a 24 percent reduction in death rates

for women who received mammograms in their 40s. However, the

consensus panel noted that the reduction in mortality was

apparent only after seven years of screening.

"That just adds to the confusion in the lay press and the

medical community and will result in some women dying

unnecessarily," said D. David Dershaw, director of the breast

imaging section of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in

New York.

The American Cancer Society, the National Breast Cancer

Coalition and other advocacy groups were outraged at the lack of

action. Even the Senate responded with a resolution, passed

unanimously, asking the National Cancer Institute to reissue

guidelines recommending that women in their 40s seek routine

mammograms.

Even the man who convened the January panel, Richard Klausner,

director of the National Cancer Institute, is convinced that the

evidence supports mammogram for women in their 40s.

So why didn't a panel of 13 cancer specialists and survivors

come up with the same conclusion?

The Times-Union put that question to Dershaw and other breast

cancer specialists last week at the second annual

Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Disease at Amelia Island.

Lawrence Bassett, professor of breast imaging at the UCLA

School of Medicine in Los Angeles, said only specialists who had

not taken a public stand on the issue of mammograms were chosen

for the panel and a majority were opposed to screening young

women with breast X-rays.

Rather than focusing on the new Swedish data, the panelists

focused on negative factors such as the anxiety women

experience, the fears of radiation exposure, the occurrence of

false readings and the costs of unnecessary biopsies, Bassett

said. …