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Women Should Weigh Risks, Benefits of Mammograms

Editorial discusses recent guidelines for breast cancer screening for women in their 40s

TUESDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) --Women are better served when they are encouraged to learn about the risks as well as the benefits of screening for breast cancer, rather than simply being told to get mammograms, according to an editorial in the Oct. 13 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Lisa M. Schwartz, M.D., and Steven Woloshin, M.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., wrote approvingly of the recent American College of Physicians screening guidelines for women 40-49 years old, which recommend that women make informed decisions about mammography after learning about its pros and cons.

Women need to be aware of the risks of false positives and overdiagnosis, the authors said, risks that can lead to unnecessary surgery, side effects of chemotherapy or hormonal therapy and injury from radiation.

"The new guideline is an improvement," the authors concluded, "because it integrates informed decision making into policy recommendations -- a refreshing change in a field dominated by sound bites and slogans. But why should this advance be limited to women in their 40s?"

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