MIAMI, FL (NOV. 19) – Randy A. Fink, MD warns that new government recommendations regarding breast cancer screenings may be a serious step backward for women’s health.
“Early diagnosis is critical to the effective treatment of breast cancer,” said Fink, a Miami-based board-certified specialist who was recently named one of “America’s Top Obstetricians & Gynecologists” by the Consumer Research Council.
In a report released Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said most women should start regular breast cancer screening at age 50 rather than 40. It also said women age 50 to 74 should have mammograms every two years, rather than every year, and that doctors should stop teaching women the techniques of breast self-examination.
The task force, which advises public policymakers, said these guidelines were intended to reduce harm from overtreatment. Many doctors are concerned that insurance companies will rapidly adopt these recommendations for cost savings.
“As we are finally making strides toward early diagnosis of breast cancer, it is surprising this group has suggested we abandon our efforts at screening women in their 40s, who account for one-fifth of new breast cancer cases,” said Fink, who is medical director of the Miami Center of Excellence for Obstetrics & Gynecology. “I fear these new recommendations will cost lives.”
While breast self-examination has not been shown to improve survival in women ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer, Fink said a woman should remain alert to changes in her body of which she herself will be most keenly aware.
“I resent that a government statistical analysis would stand in the way of a woman’s understanding of her body, and suggest that she ignore such an important part of herself,” he said. “I remain confident teaching my patients how ‘normal’ feels, and continue to believe that self-examination is important for ongoing good health.”
Fink is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, which continues to recommend screening mammography starting at age 40. The American Cancer Society also stands by the existing guidelines, and encourages that women discuss their concerns with their doctors, rather than interpreting the government recommendations on their own.
Fink serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Family Planning and BabyCenter.com, and his research interests include sexuality, fertility and contraception.