The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) response to the USPSTF breast cancer screening recommendations

I’ve been given permission to deliver the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) position statement. It does a far better job with a critique of the USPSTF Screening recommendations than I did when I shared my first thoughts. As the President for the NCBC, I want to acknowledge the work done on behalf of our organization by our Policy Chairpersons, Drs. John Bell and Barbara Rabinowitz, both of whom are tireless champions and advocates for coordinated, interdisciplinary breast care.

The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) response to the USPSTF breast cancer screening recommendations The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), the largest national organization devoted to the inter-disciplinary care of breast disease, requests the USPSTF rescind their new position on mammography screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a paper detailing model estimates of potential benefits and harms to women screened for breast cancer with mammography. They provided an updated USPSTF recommendation statement on screening for breast cancer for the general population that alters currently accepted guidelines for women over 40 years old.

The NCBC opposes the new guidelines as written. We cite specific evidence that screening mammography leads to early detection which leads to improved survival. In every country starting population screening, mortality declines coincide with onset of screening, not systemic therapy. These USPSTF models are not based on sound data, namely different denominators in the “harms” vs. “benefits” groups leading to invalid comparisons. Recent data from randomized controlled trials reveal significant mortality reductions evident approximately five years after screening programs were initiated. The reductions in age-adjusted, disease specific mortality (30-40%) since 1990 define screening program benefits not seen in the prior six decades. In the United States, these mortality declines continue at a rate of approximately 2% per year.  This mortality improvement counts as a remarkable public health achievement.

In addition, the USPSTF panel (comprised almost exclusively of primary care physicians) did not include breast imaging specialists nor was it represented by any of the multiple other specialists who collaborate to optimize patient outcomes. These specialists include pathologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, reconstructive surgeons, technologists, geneticists, nurse navigators, educators, and others.

The NCBC does not understand the assumptions used by the USPSTF to value human life. We note the cited literature was selective and failed to acknowledge equally powerful and credible peer-reviewed literature which supports currently accepted breast cancer screening guidelines.

We would also like to note that quality of life has a significant value, not just survival. It is well established that if we discontinue mammography for women in their 40’s, the cancers eventually detected will be larger, more likely need more aggressive surgery, more likely need chemotherapy and more likely lead to other significant socio-economic concerns.

The NCBC requests input into future guideline development and vows to work with government, scientists and industry to keep the process transparent and keep the focus on the patient. We recommend further efforts target screening, risk assessment, education and awareness regarding the implications of positive and negative screening findings. Funding for further research is imperative and supported by the controversy these articles have generated.

Finally, we note the USPSTF article states “whether it will be practical or acceptable to change the existing U.S. practice of annual screening cannot be addressed by our models.” The NCBC agrees with this comment and finds their screening guideline suggestions unacceptable. The NCBC believes many women’s lives will be placed at risk if current screening guidelines are altered. We respectfully request the Task Force rescind their position on this specific women’s healthcare screening policy.

Don S. Dizon is an oncologist who blogs at The Women’s Cancer Blog.

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  • arb

    NCBC has an inherent conflict of interest. The breast centers they represent lose money if the USPSTF guidelines are followed. It’s all about the money. Don’t try and snow us with your phony concern. The only concern you have is for profit losses.

  • http://drpullen.com Ed Pullen

    My biggest concern is that combined with the relatively new PAP guidelines it makes it very likely many women will not get frequent routine breast and cervical cancer screening. As a family physician it is fairly straight forward to accomplish a recall system to do annual mammograms, far more difficult to with these guidelines.

  • http://scienceblogs.com Orac

    NCBC has an inherent conflict of interest. The breast centers they represent lose money if the USPSTF guidelines are followed.

    Indeed. Just like the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America, both of which were so blatant in protecting their turf over this issue that it disgusted me:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/12/how_not_to_protect_your_medical_turf.php

  • R Watkins

    “In addition, the USPSTF panel (comprised almost exclusively of primary care physicians) did not include breast imaging specialists nor was it represented by any of the multiple other specialists who collaborate to optimize patient outcomes. These specialists include pathologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, reconstructive surgeons, technologists, geneticists, nurse navigators, educators, and others.”

    Another doc who doesn’t understand the difference between epidemiology/outcomes research, diagnosis, and treatment.

    Your condescending reference to “primary care” is noted, but it would well behoove you to look at the actual training and qualifications of the members of the USPTFS: they are far better suited to make these recommendations than “nurse navigators” (whatever they are).

    “The NCBC does not understand the assumptions used by the USPSTF to value human life.”

    An intentionally inflammatory, emotion-based, non-scientific post.