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AAPM Cautions Against Unnecessary Use of Lead Shields during Breast Exams


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact:
Charles E. Blue
301-209-3091
cblue@aip.org

College Park, MD (April 14, 2011) -- Contrary to recent media reports, the use of lead shielding during routine breast exams provides virtually no benefit in the prevention of thyroid cancer and may diminish the effectiveness of mammography, a proven medical technology that millions of women rely on every year for early breast cancer detection.

According to a statement released today by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM):

"There has been recent emphasis in the media on the use of lead aprons for women having a mammogram. In the media two types of lead aprons have been discussed -- lap aprons and thyroid aprons. There is considerable scientific evidence showing that lead aprons result in only minimal dose reductions in mammography. Mammography machines are designed to ensure patient safety, incorporating internal radiation shielding, which prevents stray radiation. The use of thyroid shields is never recommended, as thyroid shields may interfere with the mammogram. The use of a lap apron is only recommended if a woman is pregnant or thinks she may be pregnant."

In guidance to medical professionals, the AAPM also cautions that thyroid shields can obscure mammography results to the point that otherwise unnecessary follow-up tests are required. As stated:

"The use of thyroid shields during mammography exams is unsupported by the scientific literature, and could result in unnecessary increases in breast dose due to repeated mammography exams. Thus the use of thyroid shields is strongly discouraged. The use of lap shields is voluntary and is only recommended in women who are or may be pregnant at the time of the exam."

The completed text of the statement is available here.

The AAPM is a scientific and professional organization, founded in 1958, composed of scientists whose clinical practice is dedicated to ensuring accuracy, safety and quality in the use of radiation in medical procedures such as medical imaging and radiation therapy. Medical physicists, as they are generally known, are uniquely positioned across medical specialties due to their responsibility to connect the physician to the patient through the use of radiation producing technology in both diagnosing and treating people. The responsibility of the medical physicist is to assure that the radiation prescribed in imaging and radiation therapy is delivered accurately and safely. One of the primary goals of the AAPM is the identification and implementation of improvements in patient safety for the medical use of radiation in imaging and radiation therapy. To learn more about AAPM, visit www.aapm.org.

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