SALT LAKE CITY – Screen later, less often. That’s the new recommendation by the American Cancer Society regarding mammograms for women.
Women were encouraged to begin screening at age 40. On Tuesday, the group pushed the age up to 45.
In new guidelines published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk for breast cancer have their first mammogram at age 45, instead of the current recommendation of age 40.
“When you look at the data behind their recommendations a women who is 43, has a risk that is almost similar to a women who’s 45,” said Dr. Phoebe Freer, associate professor of radiology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Another recommendation is women 55 and older should scale back screening to every other year.
“There’s no magic age when breast cancer starts but we do know that the older a woman gets the more common breast cancer is,” Freer said.
The new guidelines are more in line with recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task force who called for screening at age 50. The group says mammograms save lives, but can also cause harm because of the risk of false positives women undergo.
“The majority of the time that abnormality turns out to be nothing and all the women needs is additional imaging,” Freer said. “Maybe some extra mammogram pictures, maybe an ultrasound to be told that she doesn’t have cancer and she’s in the clear for the year.”
Some doctors discount the group’s claims and say earlier testing is better.
“There are published data that indicated that women will tolerate the inconvenience of a call back if they know they can have a breast cancer diagnosed early,” said Dr. Brett Parkinson, Imaging Director, IMC Breast Cancer Care Services.
Breast cancer survivors we talked to at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk held earlier this month say more testing early on, saves lives.
“I was 39 when I found mine,” said Karma Perschon. “If you catch it early then that’s when you become a survivor.”
Pat Rains is currently battling breast cancer.
“I wish I would have did it every year but I can’t go back. I just gotta move forward and here is my strength and my courage,” Rains said.