American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

ACoS Voices Strong Support for ACS Mammography Guidelines

Encourages women to partner with their physicians to determine when and how often to receive mammograms


CHICAGO (November 19, 2009): The American College of Surgeons (ACoS) today released comments strongly supporting current American Cancer Society (ACS) screening mammography guidelines that recommend women get a mammogram every year, starting at age 40. The College is supporting the ACS guidelines despite the recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stating the women should have regular mammograms once every two years beginning at the age of 50. The College believes the ACS guidelines have resulted in an effective approach toward dealing with the possibility of breast cancer and that women should continue to follow them in consultation with their physicians.

The federal panel’s position that regular mammography screening in women under the age of 50 may do more harm than good was dismissed by David P. Winchester, MD, FACS, Medical Director of ACoS Cancer Programs, and Chair of the National Accreditation Program of Breast Centers. Dr. Winchester was particularly concerned about the panel’s belief that mammography may cause an increased risk of false-positive results in younger women who have denser breast tissue, observing that “the term unnecessary biopsy is misleading. In most cases,” he said, “biopsy--done by either surgeons or radiologists--is the reliable way to rule out cancer at any age.”

The College notes that the American Cancer Society has long recognized mammography “as the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer,”* and ACoS encourages women to take an active role in partnering with their physicians to determine at what age, and what interval, they should undergo screening mammography. The College agrees with the ACS that factors such as a woman’s family history of the disease and her overall medical condition are some of the issues that should be addressed, particularly for women who are known to be at an increased risk for developing the disease.

 “Many surgeons in this country have the tremendous responsibility and privilege of caring for breast cancer patients each day. While recognizing that mammography is not perfect and supporting continuing research for improved methods, the surgical community believes that the American Cancer Society’s screening mammography guidelines offer an optimal approach to detecting breast cancer early, when it can be most successfully treated,” Lamar S. McGinnis, Jr,, MD, FACS, President of the American College of Surgeons and former president of the American Cancer Society, said. "Mammography is a good and safe tool, which we will continue to improve. In the meantime," he added, "let's save lives as best we can. The lives of women, mothers, and grandmothers are invaluable. Our progress has been significant, and it will continue. Let us not confuse our patients and the public with mixed messages."



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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 79,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit

In the field of cancer care, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC) is a pioneer in measuring performance. All hospitals and freestanding cancer treatment facilities approved by the CoC report clinical data through the National Cancer Data Base and receive evidence-based benchmark comparison reports based on accepted standards of care for breast and colorectal cancers. These measures are endorsed by the National Quality Forum. In addition, the College administers the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), a consortium of national, professional organizations dedicated to the improvement of the quality of care and the monitoring of outcomes for patients with diseases of the breast.


Sally Garneski 

Cory Suzan Petty