After long advocating for yearly mammograms, the American Cancer Society has recently revised its recommendations. They now say that women should receive yearly screenings starting at age 45 and ending at age 54. After that, they say women should get a mammogram once every two years, so long as they are in good health and are expected to live at least another decade. They also suggest that women don’t need to have a doctor feel for tumors.
This only applies to women with a normal risk of breast cancer, however. Those with genetic predispositions and past histories of breast cancer should still be evaluated on a regular basis.
These recommendations changed after a literature review was conducted to determine what screening method is generally best for average-risk women. They found that false-positives were not uncommon, especially for women in their early 40s. This, they argue, raises false alarms and makes women go through extensive, unnecessary procedures or treatments—which may cause them to turn their backs on future mammograms entirely.
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Yet the news is an outrage to many breast cancer patients and survivors. They say that it’s better to risk a false-positive than to let a cancerous tumor go undetected and untreated. Breast cancer takes place in younger women, too, and many survivors argue they would not have made it without early detection and intervention. There’s also concern that this shift will affect insurance coverage of mammograms.
However, whatever your stance on the new guidelines, it’s important to note that the decision of “when to start” and “how frequently to test” ultimately falls to women and their doctors. Be sure to speak with a medical professional if you have any concerns.