Monday, December 23, 2013

CEPAC meeting on dense breast tissue screening

This month’s CEPAC meeting focused on that status of comparative effectiveness research on supplemental cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue. 40% of women have dense tissue, both raising the risk of cancer and the chances that a lump will be masked on a routine mammogram. CT is the only state that both requires notification of women with dense tissue and requires insurers to cover supplemental screens. The evidence was conflicting and confusing (they never give us easy ones.) While supplemental screens pick up more cancers, they also find more false positives with attendant risks. We heard compelling testimony from women whose cancers were missed on mammograms, possibly for years, because they didn’t know. We also considered the risks of false positives (including anxiety and unnecessary biopsies), as well as the costs and availability of various supplemental screens (and what else that funding could be spent on). In the end, we voted to recommend supplemental screens for women at risk of breast cancer.