February 19, 1997

NIH Consensus Panel Spurs Discontent

JAMA. 1997;277(7):519-520. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540310017010

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DESPITE an attempt at the start of this year to resolve the question of whether women in their 40s should have routine mammography for the early detection of breast cancer, the issue continues to be controversial.

When the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reversed its previously held position and recommended in 1993 that routine mammographic screening for women 40 to 49 years old was not warranted, several groups—including the American Cancer Society—strongly disagreed. Confusion reigned.

In an attempt to settle the matter, a consensus development panel called by the NCI's parent agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), met last month to consider whether new evidence that has emerged in the past 3 years warranted a recommendation for screening.

After 6 weeks of reading more than 100 reports and 2 days of listening to 32 presentations by invited speakers, the 13-member panel concluded that the decision whether to have a routine