In-depth examination of potential improvements for breast cancer screening

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A report released today by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council of the National Academies provides an in-depth examination of potential improvements for breast cancer screening and detection services in the United States. The Komen Foundation supports the recommendations put forth in the report, and also stresses its continued commitment to ensuring that those who currently face a diagnosis of breast cancer have access to the best care available today.

The report, Saving Women's Lives: Strategies for Improving Breast Cancer Detection and Diagnosis, categorizes its findings and recommendations into four areas: improve current application of screening mammography; integrate biology, technology, and risk models to develop new screening strategies; improve the environment for research and development; and improve the implementation and use of new technologies.

As a long-time advocate for improving and expanding options for breast cancer detection and diagnosis, the Komen Foundation has made significant inroads related to many of the issues raised in the IOM report. For example, with regard to mammography, the Foundation has been actively engaged in efforts to reauthorize the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) and the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) to help reduce disparities, while also working to secure necessary changes to both programs necessary to improve patient access for all patients to quality screening services.

"The focus in this report on improving the current application of screening mammography is critically important, particularly as it relates to quality assurance," said Diane Balma, J.D., director of public policy for the Komen Foundation. "The Komen Foundation has been vocal about the value of data collection and program monitoring because we believe it has greater implications for positive treatment outcomes. In fact, under the leadership of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), we are aiming for a federal mandate that it be studied further."

Additional ideas and recommendations put forth in the report include actions to achieve greater integration of resources for the eventual development of individualized screening strategies and to achieve maximum potential from innovative technologies, increase cooperation among stakeholder groups in order to adopt and set standards for the adoption of new technology as well as lift barriers to participation in studies, and unite research funders with private foundations to optimize the benefit of new technologies.

"More targeted, individualized risk assessments and treatments, and moving away from the widely practiced one-size-fits-all approach should greatly improve our ability to fight breast cancer," said Cheryl Perkins, M.D., senior clinical advisor for the Komen Foundation. "However while it's incredibly promising to think we might be able to develop individualized screening strategies and determine which treatments will or will not work for each individual, this is a very complex issue that will only work if changes are made to the current health care system."

Dr. Perkins continued: "Overall, this is a very comprehensive report that does an excellent job of outlining barriers and possible solutions for many of the practical and scientific detection and diagnostic issues that currently surround breast cancer. It also serves as another reminder of how far the breast cancer community has come, and yet how far we have to go to move the cause forward. While we continue our quest to find a cure, we must insist on quality measures, new technologies and reducing disparities."

While investing millions of dollars annually in cutting-edge breast cancer research for the future, the Komen Foundation recognizes the urgency of helping to meet the needs of those who are facing breast cancer today. Through community needs assessments, the Foundation identifies and meets gaps in breast cancer services funding many free or low-cost screening and treatment programs, as well as numerous other patient outreach and support activities.

For more information, visit the Foundation's Web site at


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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