From the National Consortium of Breast Centers

As a follow-up to my recent post regarding new screening guidelines, I've been given permission to deliver the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) position statement.

As a follow-up to my recent post regarding new screening guidelines, I’ve been given permission to deliver the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) position statement. It does a far better job with a critique of the USPSTF Screening recommendations than I did when I shared my first thoughts. As the President for the NCBC, I want to acknowledge the work done on behalf of our organization by our Policy Chairpersons, Drs. John Bell and Barbara Rabinowitz, both of whom are tireless champions and advocates for coordinated, interdisciplinary breast care.

The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), the largest national organization devoted to the inter-disciplinary care of breast disease, requests the USPSTF rescind their new position on mammography screening.

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a paper detailing model estimates of potential benefits and harms to women screened for breast cancer with mammography. They provided an updated USPSTF recommendation statement on screening for breast cancer for the general population that alters currently accepted guidelines for women over 40 years old.

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The NCBC opposes the new guidelines as written. We cite specific evidence that screening mammography leads to early detection which leads to improved survival. In every country starting population screening, mortality declines coincide with onset of screening, not systemic therapy. These USPSTF models are not based on sound data, namely different denominators in the “harms” vs. “benefits” groups leading to invalid comparisons. Recent data from randomized controlled trials reveal significant mortality reductions evident approximately five years after screening programs were initiated. The reductions in age-adjusted, disease specific mortality (30-40%) since 1990 define screening program benefits not seen in the prior six decades. In the United States, these mortality declines continue at a rate of approximately 2% per year. This mortality improvement counts as a remarkable public health achievement.

In addition, the USPSTF panel (comprised almost exclusively of primary care physicians) did not include breast imaging specialists nor was it represented by any of the multiple other specialists who collaborate to optimize patient outcomes. These specialists include pathologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, reconstructive surgeons, technologists, geneticists, nurse navigators, educators, and others.

The NCBC does not understand the assumptions used by the USPSTF to value human life. We note the cited literature was selective and failed to acknowledge equally powerful and credible peer-reviewed literature which supports currently accepted breast cancer screening guidelines.

We would also like to note that quality of life has a significant value, not just survival. It is well established that if we discontinue mammography for women in their 40’s, the cancers eventually detected will be larger, more likely need more aggressive surgery, more likely need chemotherapy and more likely lead to other significant socio-economic concerns.

The NCBC requests input into future guideline development and vows to work with government, scientists and industry to keep the process transparent and keep the focus on the patient. We recommend further efforts target screening, risk assessment, education and awareness regarding the implications of positive and negative screening findings. Funding for further research is imperative and supported by the controversy these articles have generated.

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Finally, we note the USPSTF article states “whether it will be practical or acceptable to change the existing U.S. practice of annual screening cannot be addressed by our models.”The NCBC agrees with this comment and finds their screening guideline suggestions unacceptable. The NCBC believes many women’s lives will be placed at risk if current screening guidelines are altered. We respectfully request the Task Force rescind their position on this specific women’s healthcare screening policy.

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About NCBC: The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) is the largest national organization devoted to the inter-disciplinary care of breast disease. In keeping with our mission, to promote excellence in breast care through a network of diverse professionals dedicated to the active exchange of ideas and resources including: 1) To serve as an informational resource and to provide support services to those rendering care to people with breast disease through educational programs, newsletters, a national directory, and patient forums; 2) To encourage professionals to concentrate and specialize in activities related to breast disease; 3) To encourage the development of programs and centers that address breast disease and promote breast health; 4) To facilitate collaborative research opportunities on issues of breast health; and 5) To develop a set of core measures to define, improve and sustain quality standards in comprehensive breast programs and centers.

References:

1. November 17th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 151, Number 10, 738-747.

2. November 17th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 151, Number 10, 716-726.

3. Tabar L, Vitak B, Chen HT et al. Beyond randomized controlled trials: organized mammographic screening substantially reduces breast cancer mortality. Cancer 2001; 91: 1724-1731.

4. American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2009-2010.