Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death amongst American women today. Experts are saying that preventative care is more important now than ever.
What is the most important part of preventative care?
One of the most crucial parts of it is mammograms.
CBS news reports on the mammogram timeline. A new report shows when and how often women should be getting a mammogram.
When should screening begin?
The new information shows that women should start getting screened when they turn forty, but the screening rates should actually change when a woman turns fifty.
“Women should get a mammogram every two years starting at age 50 -- and while routine screening brings little benefit in the 40s, beginning it that early should be a personal choice, a government task force said Monday,” according to CBS.
Scientists are saying that there is not enough evidence to tell if new 3-D mammograms are the best option for routine screening. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force concluded that they also couldn’t tell yet if women with dense breasts need extra testing to find hidden tumors.
The experts’ advice issued Monday is basically a rewording of the task force's controversial 2009 recommendation that brought on protests for questioning the usefulness of mammograms in women in their 40s.
What do other groups recommend?
The American Cancer Society has had the same recommendations for a long time. They say annual mammograms should start at age 40 and while insurance usually pays for them, experts feared the dueling guidelines would confuse the public.
CBS reports, “In reviewing its recommendation this time around, the government advisory panel is stressing that 40-somethings need to weigh the pros and cons of screening with their doctors. Mammograms clearly can help prevent deaths but they come with trade-offs: anxiety-provoking false alarms, unneeded biopsies, and over diagnosis, detection of tumors that never would have threatened a woman's life.”
The report also showed that compared with biennial mammograms for average-risk women, starting at age 40 instead of 50 could prevent one additional death but lead to 576 more false alarms for every 1,000 women screened. Apart from age, the report found that nearly 1 in 5 women whose tumor was detected by a screening mammogram might have been over diagnosed.
But there are some women who might benefit from getting mammograms at age 40. Experts from the task force say that this idea mostly pertains to women who have a family history of breast cancer, such as those who are BRCA gene holders.
Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society, which had sharply criticized the task force's 2009 recommendation, commented on the new recommendation.
He said, “Urging that kind of personalized discussion is an important clarification. Mammography is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, and avoiding a premature cancer death.”
The report highlights the fact that that around 40 percent of women have extremely dense breast tissue where it is hard to spot breast cancer, and they are at an increased risk. And women should undergo mammography every two years between 50 and 74, however more research is needed on whether to continue screening women 75 and older.