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Free Seminar Aims to Clear Up Confusion Over Screening Mammograms

April 14, 2010

With so many headlines in the news recently about mammography, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused.

The new guidelines proposed by the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) in November 2009 and ensuing controversy have left many women with unanswered questions about how to proceed with their breast health care.

What are the facts? What does the research actually say? When are you supposed to begin receiving routine screening mammograms?

On Tuesday, April 27, Dr. Sunil Upender, M.D., a Washington Hospital Medical Staff physician specializing in radiology, will discuss the latest research regarding screening mammograms and will provide information to help women make the best decisions about their breast health.

"My goal is to explain the facts in light of the recent controversy regarding mammography," Dr. Upender says. "There might be some confusion as to what doctors and radiologists are really saying about screening mammograms and it leaves the subject open to some confusion for women wondering, ‘What should I do?’"

Topics he will discuss include:

  • What the most recent data and research means to patients
  • At what age patients should begin receiving screening mammograms and how often
  • Current recommendations

"When they leave this talk, they should have an understanding of what’s being said by medical experts in the field of radiology that will help them to make their own decisions," Dr. Upender says. "They can go to their doctor with the facts and say ‘What’s the best thing for me?’"

The most important thing when making decisions about breast health, he says, is to get all the facts before making any decisions.

"I want to educate audience members about this subject so they can make an informed decision about their screening schedule," Dr. Upender explains. "I can’t blame women who want to put it off – it’s not an easy test, and mammograms are not fun. It makes it easier to procrastinate if you hear something that says wait another ten years before you start getting mammograms.

"At the same time, you have to ask the question: ‘Is it safe to put it off?’ That’s what I want to talk about. Personally, I don’t think it is safe to put off screening mammograms."

In the larger scheme of things, Dr. Upender says that pushing back the age for routine screening mammograms will save some health care dollars. But he asks: at what cost?

"It’s at the sacrifice of lives, and that’s my take on it," he says. "If women choose to wait to schedule their screening mammogram, at least they should have the knowledge. Education will help them make a better decision."

During his talk, Dr. Upender says he will describe the study upon which the USPSTF based its updated recommendations and he will also detail his concerns about a large-scale delay in screening mammograms.

"The study that the task force cites agrees with current practices for screening mammography," he says. "It’s just that the task force’s interpretation or final conclusion is different based on those statistics. My goal is to state the facts, and that way it’s not just me preaching one way or another.

"My stance is: ‘Here are the facts and you can use them to decide what you want to do.’"

He points out that data and studies have shown that mammography is an effective tool in decreasing breast cancer mortality rates since screening programs have been implemented. And while technology and medical practices continue to evolve, Dr. Upender calls mammography ‘the best test we have right now’ for the early diagnosis of breast cancer.

"There are other technologies such as breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the horizon but they haven’t been proven yet, while mammography has been proven to be effective," he says. "The other issue is that I don’t want to lose momentum for screening mammography.

"We don’t want to lose the most effective tool that has made progress in reducing breast cancer mortality – we don’t want to go backwards after making so many gains.

Dr. Upender will also answer any questions from audience members, as well as providing information about mammography guidelines for certain age groups.

Join Dr. Upender on Tuesday, April 27, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., for his discussion about Controversies in Screening Mammography. The free seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital.

To register for the seminar, visit www.whhs.com and click on the link beneath "Upcoming Seminars."

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