Oct 20, 2015 7:20 PM
The American Cancer Society announced major changes to its mammogram and breast cancer screening guidelines Tuesday. It now says that women should start getting annual mammograms at 45 years old instead of 40, and reduce screenings to every other year at age 55.
The update also drops a recommendation for routine physical breast exams by doctors.
The ACS claims medical literature shows these measures are not very effective. Although mammograms can save lives, the organization says they also have a relatively high false positive rate especially for younger women with dense breast tissue. False positives lead to more mammograms and testing, which can mean more radiation, and it could also lead to unnecessary biopsies.
But critics of the new guidelines say the American Cancer Society's research is based on film mammograms, which is nearly obsolete in the U.S. Newer digital mammograms have a lower false positive rate and do a better job of detecting cancer.
If you are at higher risk, say you have a history of breast cancer in your family, doctors still recommend more intensive screening for you.
It comes down to the patient. If cutting back on annual screenings is worrisome or uncomfortable for you, you may still want to be screened regularly. At the very least talk to your doctor about your concerns.
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