Women’s Health Month: Closing Gaps in Breast Cancer Screening
This Women’s Health Month, AdvaMed is highlighting new developments in breast cancer screening.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) released new draft recommendations that women get screened for breast cancer every other year, starting at age 40. Previously, the Task Force recommended women in their 40s decide whether to get a mammogram on an individual basis, related to their health history and preference.
The change came after “new and more inclusive science” indicated screening at an earlier age could result in 19 percent more lives being saved.
While the prospect of saving lives is good news, tempering the cause for celebration is the disparate impact of breast cancer on Black women.
As the Task Force stated, “Black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than White women and too often get deadly cancers at younger ages. The Task Force recognizes this inequity and is calling for more research to understand the underlying causes and what can be done to eliminate this health disparity.”
AdvaMed, representing the companies that make breast cancer screening and treatment technology, endorses the call to action to understand the causes of these pronounced disparities and to work to end them.
AdvaMed adopted four Principles on Health Equity to guide our work on easing health disparities:
- Promoting inclusion and equity in healthcare
- Partnering in education with stakeholders
- All patients deserve access to innovative technology
- Promoting research equity in the medtech industry
Research equity requires more diversity in clinical trials. The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials is well-documented. Fortunately, an increasing number of companies recognize the need for change and are casting a wider net in recruiting participants. More diverse clinical trials will also help AdvaMed member companies fulfill our principle of ensuring all patients have access to innovative medical technology. The trial results will inform how to close the gaps in access to mammograms, other screening modalities, and follow-up care at appropriate ages and intervals for Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Alaska Native women.
Diverse clinical trial participants inform the understanding of how medical technology will perform across a larger percentage of the affected patient population. The results inform medtech development and shape screening guidelines, such as those from the Task Force. The Task Force is taking public comment on its draft recommendations through June 6. Stakeholders are already weighing in.
For example, the Alliance for Women’s Health & Prevention expressed disappointment “that the draft guidelines do not include annual screenings or a recommendation for women with dense breasts.” Breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer, and Black women tend to have denser breast tissue than White women. A recent study suggests interpretation of breast density changes over time could help inform risks and diagnoses.
Comments and developments like these are important. They contribute to the robust, well-informed debate critical to developing and acting on more representative patient screening guidelines. The dialogue must continue, and it will. Every woman deserves access to the screening necessary for the timely detection and diagnosis of breast cancer that are key to saving lives.