In revising its draft guidelines for starting breast cancer screening, the task force took a major step toward saving more lives by lowering the previously recommended age for routine screening from 50 to 40 for women.
New scientific evidence shows that around 60,000 women under the age of 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. By encouraging women to start breast cancer screening a decade earlier, almost 20% more lives could be saved. Therefore, we wholeheartedly commend the task force for changing their guidelines to recommend that all women begin screening at age 40.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States and affects women of all ages, races and demographics. One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
However, it is also important to note that some women are more affected by social, environmental and economic disadvantages than others. At younger ages, black women are more likely to develop aggressive, deadly cancers than white women. For example, while black women have rates of breast cancer similar to white women, they are 40% more likely to die from it.
While more research is needed to determine the underlying causes of why black women are disproportionately affected by these diseases, we know what can be done now to detect and treat breast cancer early – preventive measures and routine screening.
At the Promise Fund of Florida, we recognize that there are significant differences in the way women perceive health care, with certain groups facing greater barriers to accessing primary health care and medical care. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to promote screening for women in need, because improved access to breast cancer screening allows us to detect and treat cancer earlier.
In addition, we believe that the task force’s guidance could go one step further. It’s disappointing that the panel only recommends mammography screening every two years, rather than annually. While this is progress, we know that yearly screenings after age 40 would be even better, especially for those who may be developing aggressive breast cancer. In a perfect world, every woman over 40 should be screened every year.
We will work with the breast cancer community to support definitive guidelines that advance early detection, improve treatment options, and reduce disparities in health outcomes. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer in the meantime — especially at a younger age — we encourage you to share your story during the task force’s public comment period. We stand together in this fight: make your voice heard and submit comments on the draft screening recommendations on the task force’s website at USPreventiveServicesTaskForce.org by June 6, 2023.
Nancy G. Brinker has been named the 2023 National Women’s Health Week Ambassador. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and is a founder of the Promise Fund of Florida.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Forty is the new 50 when it comes to breast cancer prevention for women