by Susan Mathews, Bioethics Program Alumna (2014)
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among North American women. Although routine mammography decreases the risk of death by about 15 percent, research on the effectiveness of wide-scale screening programs shows that 2,500 people would need to be screened to prevent one cancer death among women ages 40-49. Given this, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its population guidelines in 2009 to advise against routine screening mammography for women under 50.
These new recommendations were met with controversy and confusion, with many questioned the ability of “experts” to weigh potential benefits and harms of screening for individuals.
But how should population data like this, along with other epidemiologic, social, psychological and economic factors, be considered in medical decision-making?
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[This post is a summary of an article published on Life Matters Media on November 25, 2014. The contents of this blog are solely the responsibility of the author and do not represent the views of the Bioethics Program or Union Graduate College.]