The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care releases updated guidelines for breast cancer screening in average risk women–Guidelines to help provide clarity for Canadian women and their physicians
Ottawa, 21 November, 2011—The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (Task Force) has released an updated guideline for breast cancer screening in average risk women aged 40–74. The guideline, prepared by an independent panel of 14 clinicians and experts in research, prevention, and primary care in Canada, is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and has been endorsed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
The new guideline, which weighs the potential harms of false positives and unnecessary biopsies against the potential benefits of breast cancer screening in average risk women, updates prior guidelines by the Task Force from 1994 and 2001.
“As the Guideline on Breast Cancer Screening was last updated in 2001 and breast cancer screening has since become a subject for discussion amongst doctors and patients, the revitalized Canadian Task Force selected breast cancer screening as the topic for its first guideline,” said Dr. Marcello Tonelli, Chair of the Task Force on Preventive Health Care and Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Medicine, in Edmonton, Alberta. “We intend that the guideline, which reflects that latest scientific evidence in breast cancer screening, be used to guide physicians and their patients in the optimum use of mammograms and breast examination.”
The guidelines, aimed at physicians and policy makers, provide recommendations for mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), breast self-exams and clinical breast exams by clinicians. They target average-risk women in three age groups (40–49 years, 50–69 and 70–74 years) who have not had breast cancer and do not have a family history of breast cancer in a mother, sister or daughter.
“Providing Canadians with guidelines that reflect the most current scientific evidence is our priority,” said Dr. Richard Birtwhistle, Vice-Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Studies in Primary Care at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “We encourage every woman to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their doctor before deciding on the best approach for them.”
The new uideline is consistent with current clinical practice. The uideline now recommends routine screening for women 50–74 instead of 50–69. To provide women in this target age group with more flexibility, the screening interval has also been extended from every 2 years, which is current clinical practice, to every 2–3 years. For average risk women aged 40–49, the recommendation is not to screen with mammography–a slight change from current practice in most organized provincial and territorial screening programs, which is to not actively recruit women in this age category.
The main recommendations of the guideline include:
- Average risk women 40–49: Task Force recommends not routinely screening
- Average risk women 50–74: Task Force recommends routinely screening every 2 to 3 years
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Task Force recommends not routinely screening with MRI
- Clinical Breast Exam (examination performed by a health professional): Task Force recommends not routinely performing clinical breast exams
- Breast Self-Exam (self-examination of the breast): Task Force recommends physicians not advising women to routinely practice breast self-exams
For the complete report and details of the recommendations, please visit canadiantaskforce.ca
About the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has been established to develop clinical practice guidelines that support primary care providers in delivering preventive health care. The mandate of the Task Force is to develop and disseminate clinical practice guidelines for primary and preventive care, based on systematic analysis of scientific evidence.