One month after Breast Cancer Awareness month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published updates to its mammogram screening guidelines in Annals of Internal Medicine. The task force’s 16 health care experts are against women in their 40s getting routine mammograms. They suggest women 50 to 74 years old should get a mammogram every other year, instead of annually, until they turn 75. And, they believe doctors should no longer urge women to conduct monthly breast self-exams. Click here for more details.
The task force is receiving a lot of heat from breast cancer survivors and others who believe early screenings help save lives. Watch video here of experts from both sides of the debate.
The American Cancer Society will continue to advocate for women to get annual mammograms beginning at 40 years old to help early detection of breast cancer. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society’s deputy chief medical officer, explains “Our concern is that as a result of that confusion, women may elect not to get screened at all. And that, to me, would be a serious problem.” Read the rest of the story here.
The task force argues the benefits of early mammogram screening do not justify the potential harms in younger women, specifically age 40 – 49 years old. Getting screened too early can lead to false alarms, radiation exposure, and it is costly. Also, early screenings do not significantly improve the odds of survival.
What does this mean for you?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations can heavily influence Medicare and other insurance companies’ screening tests coverage. However, insurance companies are skeptical of an immediate impact.
The new guidelines are intended for the general population. Those considered at high risk of breast cancer, due to family history or gene mutations, should continue to get early mammogram screenings.
Women concerned or worried about breast cancer (no matter the age) are still urged to consult their doctors for proper check-up, diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. George Sledge, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a professor of medicine at Indiana University’s Simon Cancer Center, leaves us with this final note, “the core issue is that screening mammography reduces breast-cancer mortality. And that is unchanged by this report.”
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What’s your opinion? Do you support the continuation of early mammogram screenings? Or, do you think the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force presents a valid point?