Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death today amongst American women. Now health regulators have set new guidelines that will affect all women.
CBS news reports on the new guidelines. The new regulations have been issued by the American Cancer Society.
Experts surprisingly bumped up the recommended age for a first mammogram from 40 to 45 for women at average risk for breast cancer. The new regulations also recommend that women move to every other year screenings after the age of 55.
The American Cancer Society last evolved its guidelines in 2003, according to Dr. Oeffinger, chair of the breast cancer guideline panel and a family physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York. He also said that new research that has come out in the last decade led to these new guidelines.
Dr. Oeffinger said, “The recommendations are made with the intent of maximizing reductions in breast cancer mortality and years of life -- a life saved -- but also being attentive to the need to minimize harms associated with screening. The false positives, the needle biopsies, and emotional factors a woman might experience. Though these may be very different from one woman to another.”
One of the most important messages of the new regulations is that women should make informed decisions about when and how often they choose to get breast cancer screening. Many women feel like that they get confusing messages.
Experts said in the Journal of the American Medical Association that women aged 40 to 45 should have the choice to begin screening early, and women 55 and up should have the option to skip a year between screenings, the authors said in their new guidelines.
The standard screening for breast cancer incorporates taking two images of each breast. Dr. Oeffinger, said, “Next steps, if there's concern, would be an ultrasound if there are some areas that may need a bit of a better look.”
Dr. Oeffinger also stressed the point that if you see a suspect area then that may need to be re-imaged in three to six months and some may require a tissue evaluation. Today the needle biopsies use thin needles that go right into a lesion, and usually they are painless procedures and take a reasonable amount of time.
Experts also explained that the option to screen every two years beginning at age 55 is based on the fact that post-menopausal breast cancers tend to build more slowly.
Dr. Harold J. Burstein, a breast oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, commented on the study. He said, “Today's announcement to update mammogram guidelines is important, giving women more flexibility and bringing U.S. practice closer to prevailing recommendations around the world.”
Experts are saying that despite the change in mammogram testing regulations, mammograms are still definitely an important screening tool for breast cancer and they undoubtedly save lives, their significance has not been minimized at all.