Two studies presented at the American Roentgen Ray Society meetings address changes in mammography screening among women ages 40-49 since the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) withdrew a recommendation that women in that age group undergo regular mammography screening.
In one study, the investigators compared the number of women screened in the nine months prior to the guideline change, and then in the nine months afterward. While the numbers of women age 50 and older remained stable, they observed a drop of about 15% in the number of women in their 40s who underwent mammography.
A second study described reported mammography screening practices of primary care physicians before and after the USPSTF modified the mammography guidelines. The investigators observed a decline in the proportion of primary care physicians who recommended annual mammography for women in their 40s (56% to 20%), with significant fractions shifting from annual or biennial screening to informed decision making.
Below is a comment from Robert A. Smith, Ph.D., director of cancer screening.
“Each of these studies is small, with findings based on the evaluation of local populations. Thus, they do not provide evidence that is generalizable to theU.S.population. However, it is reasonable to expect that the change in the USPSTF would result in a change in the referral pattern of some primary care physicians, and a drop in the rate of mammography. Thus far, national surveys have not measured a decline in the mammography rate, but no data since 2008 have been reported, and thus it is not yet possible to measure whether or not the change in the USPSTF guidelines has led to fewer women in their 40s getting mammograms.”