Earlier this week, the American Cancer Society recommended a major adjustment in the scheduling of mammograms. If these recommendations are implemented, the following will be put in place:
- Women with an average risk of obtaining breast cancer should get annual mammograms beginning at age 45 (instead of age 40, which is the current recommendation).
- Women aged 55 years and older would receive screenings every other year (instead of every year, which is the current recommendation).
Of course, the question is why. As is often the cause, public health initiatives aren’t absolute benefits but are a weighing of the benefits of the services versus the risks. In this example, a major review of mammograms performed in 2009 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that the risk of false positive mammogram results needlessly exposed women to biopsies and other unnecessary additional testing. These additional procedures were deemed more than was justified by the number of truly positive cancers detected early by mammograms.
What this is really saying is there is a move toward more personalized decisions. If you’re in your 40s and the risks are justified, you will likely continue to receive mammograms earlier than the new recommendations suggest. Discuss this with your physician, and be a partner in your health care decisions.
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