In the furor over last week’s recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women not begin having regular mammograms until they are 50, and then have them every two years from age 50 to 74 rather than annually (with exceptions for women at high-risk for the disease), another of the task force’s findings has gotten lost in the scuffle.
In addition to finding that the benefits of earlier mammograms, and of more frequent mammograms, are unwarranted because of "at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small," the panel was even more critical of teaching women breast self-exam…
The Mayo Clinic notes that "breast exams, once thought essential for early breast cancer detection, are now considered optional … [T]here's no evidence that breast exams can" save lives. The National Breast Cancer Coalition (one of my favorite advocacy groups because it hews so closely to the science, (letting the politically correct chips fall where they may) calls the idea that breast self-exams save lives "Myth #1."
NewsWeek by Sharon Begley, 11/25/09