You’ve probably heard that there are new mammogram guidelines from the American Cancer Society that just came out on October 20, 2015.
The guidelines include:
- Women with an average risk of breast cancer — most women — should begin yearly mammograms at age 45.
- At age 55, women should have mammograms every other year, though women who want to keep having yearly mammograms should be able to do so.
- Regular mammograms should continue for as long as a woman is in good health and their life expectancy is an additional 10 years or more.
- Breast exams, either from a medical provider or self-exams, are no longer recommended.
Previously, their guidelines suggested that:
- Women should start getting mammograms at age 40
- Women should continue getting mammograms every year after age 55
- Medical providers should provide breast exams during a routine physical
- Women should perform self-exams starting at age 19
The new guidelines are aimed towards women at moderate risk. If you have higher risk such as testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or a family history, then follow your doctor’s advice.
In addition, the guidelines support that women can get mammograms starting earlier than age 45, or continue getting them yearly after age 55, if they so desire.
So why the change?
The American Cancer Society extensively reviewed the data from numerous studies and made recommendations based on those findings. They have determined that having more screening did not always produce findings that needed treatment, and that there can be harm from excessive mammogram screening. They are now opting for a more conservative approach.
According to the New York Times, “More than half of women screened annually for 10 years will have at least one false positive finding. These can result in as little as a second exam and as much as a biopsy, which also carries small but real risks.