Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for American women today. However, should they get mammograms earlier?
CBS News reports on mammograms. New research reports that getting mammograms earlier is more beneficial to women.
Critics of early mammograms have said that early mammograms are not a good idea, because some can lead to false positives or find lumps that actually are not life threatening and lead to unnecessary treatment.
But new research shows that the pros of early mammograms outweigh the cons of early mammograms. The data shows that all women turning 40 should get a breast cancer risk assessment, since half of them may have risks that are high enough to warrant that they immediately start annual mammograms.
The new analysis is important because current guidelines state that women can wait until 45 or 50 to get mammograms; the research team is suggesting that these guidelines be changed.
The lead researcher of the study is Dr. Jennifer Plichta, she is a breast surgery fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Plichta said the review of female patients between the ages of 40 and 44 found that 50 percent had an above-average risk for breast cancer. Therefore these women would be eligible to begin screening mammography at age 40.
Dr. Plichta also said that the research found a significant percentage of women would qualify for other breast screening methods, including breast MRI and genetic testing if the guidelines reflected the new study.
“We believe formal risk assessment is essential for women ages 40 to 44 in order to identify those who require screening mammography to start at the age of 40, and those who would qualify for screening MRIs and genetic testing,” according to Dr. Plichta.
How was the study conducted?
The study was put together to look at new breast cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. The cancer society actually did update its regulations in 2015, recommending that women could wait until age 45 to start going for annual mammograms. Prior to the new 2015 guidelines, the cancer society had recommended women start yearly screenings at the age of 40.
The American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) also changed its regulations to mirror the new cancer society recommendation. Dr. Plichta explained her approach using risk assessment and its importance, “Critical to the development and interpretation of both of these new guidelines is formal risk assessment. Furthermore, risk assessment is needed not only to determine who qualifies for mammography, but also who may require screening MRIs and/or genetic testing.”
The researchers said that there particularly want to see doctors doing risk assessments by the time women are forty; they say that perhaps risk assessments should be part of the general standard of care so that women at risk can get mammograms sooner as needed.