Novel breast cancer screening methods that detect greater numbers of occult (nonpalpable) tumors have been rapidly incorporated into clinical practice, with the aim of reducing mortality. Yet, tumor detection has never been validated as a proper surrogate outcome measure for breast cancer mortality. Moreover, the detection of greater numbers of occult cancers increases the risk of overdiagnosis, which refers to detection of tumors that pose no threat to life and would never have been detected in the absence of screening. With recent advances in breast cancer therapy, many cancers that were previously curable only if detected as occult tumors with mammography screening are perhaps now curable even when detected as small palpable tumors, thereby giving us an opportunity to deescalate screening and mitigate the risk of overdiagnosis. Thus, a randomized trial comparing screening mammography versus screening clinical breast examination (CBE), with breast cancer mortality as the endpoint, is now warranted. In such a trial, hand-held ultrasound might aid in the interpretation of screening CBE findings. In conclusion, recent improvements in breast cancer therapy provide the justification to assess the deescalation of breast cancer screening.

See related article by Farber et al., p. 671

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