Cancer Society Recommends Later, Fewer Mammograms

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is now recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer wait to have their first mammogram at age 45 rather than age 40, and also that women age 55 and older reduce their screenings to every other year instead of every year.

The new guidelines, published in JAMA, are more in line with guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an expert panel backed by the government that has recommended biennial breast cancer screenings, starting at age 50 for most women. Initially, the ACS had been critical of those recommendations.

But the Cancer Society shifted its position based on studies suggesting the benefits of detecting cancers earlier did not outweigh the risk of false positive results, which needlessly expose women to additional testing, including a possible biopsy.

The ACS, however, emphasized that the new guidelines do not apply to all women, particularly those with a family history of breast cancer. As medicine becomes more personalized, decisions about whether to begin screenings earlier should be based on discussions between a woman and her doctor. 

The new ACS guidelines also recommend against clinical breast exams in which doctors physically check a woman's breasts for lumps and they stress that cost should not be a barrier to breast cancer screening. For an uninsured woman, a mammogram of both breasts costs about $300, according to Healthcare Bluebook. 

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Sourced from: Reuters, American Cancer Society eases mammogram recommendations