CanadaHealth

National task force not lowering age for routine breast cancer screening to 40

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A national task force that provides guidance for primary health-care providers is not lowering the recommended breast cancer screening age to 40, despite urging from several cancer specialists, surgeons and radiologists. 

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has been reviewing its current advice that women start routine breast cancer screening at age 50.

It holds firm on that position, and on previous advice against routine screening past age 74.

However, the task force adds that if someone age 40 and over understands the benefits and harms of early screening and still wants to go ahead, they should be able to get a mammogram every two to three years.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that routine mammograms start at age 40 and says it is “disappointed” by the task force decision announced Thursday.

In a release, Dr. Sandra Krueckl said while the society respects the expertise of the task force, it has “an obligation to listen to patients who have been loud and clear that they do not feel represented by the guidelines. They have shared frustrations at having to fight for inclusion in screening, the reliance on health-care providers for access to screening, and the lack of clarity around when they should be screened.”

“Today’s guidelines disregard those voices and continue to place the burden of navigating the system on the shoulders of people who needed more support and guidance,” she said.

It is up to the provinces and territories to decide when to offer mammograms free of charge.

Several provinces and territories, including British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon already offer breast cancer screening starting at age 40.

Ontario has said it will be lowering the age for regular, publicly funded breast cancer screenings from 50 to 40 starting in the fall.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women in Canada.

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