April 3, 2000 (Chantilly, Va.) -- If ever there were a case for strength in numbers, mammography may be it, say breast cancer experts.
Women seeking mammograms can find the highest quality screenings from radiologists and doctors who have years of experience performing and reading mammograms on a daily basis. Also, those organizations that meet high professional standards of safety and quality should display a Food and Drug Administration certificate.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is recommending sweeping changes in its breast cancer screening guidelines.
The USPSTF, which is a group of independent health experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services, reviewed and commissioned research to develop computer-simulated models comparing the expected outcomes under different screening scenarios.
Here are the USPSTF's recommendations, based on all that work:
Routine screening of average-risk women should begin...
"I think it is important that women know that they are at a certified mammogram center, so they know that the machines are evaluated on an annual basis,'' says Barbara Brenner, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.
"And we always tell women under 50 that when they decide to have their first mammogram, they should schedule time right after the screening to sit down and ask questions. They should go to a place that will show them the pictures and answer questions about what can and cannot be seen.''
According to the American Cancer Society, women should go to the same facility every year, if possible, so that new and old mammograms can be compared. The society also recommends that women take copies of their mammograms with them if they move, so that doctors at their new facility can do the same.
Michael D. Towle writes regularly for WebMD on health and legal issues.