New Mammogram Guidelines

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations to the

Federal Government regarding healthcare. They were tasked with reviewing breast cancer screening guidelines and the

Task Force has recommended sweeping changes in its breast cancer screening guidelines for women who are not

at risk for breast cancer.

Their recommendations are:

• Routine screening of average-risk women should begin at age 50 instead of age 40

• Routine screening should end at age 74

• Women should get screening mammograms every two years instead of every year

• Breast self-exams have little value based on fi ndings from several large studies and should no longer

be encouraged

Their recommendations have set off a fi restorm of controversy.

The American Cancer Society continues to recommend annual mammography screening to all healthy women starting at age 40.

Since age is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer, it makes little sense to stop screening relatively healthy women when they

reach age 75. There are plenty of relatively healthy women in their late 70’s and 80’s for whom screening may be appropriate.

WebMD reports that the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging say the new guidelines could cost

women’s lives. Calling the guidelines a “cost-cutting” measure, the American College of Radiologists states that “two decades

of decline in breast cancer mortality could be reversed and countless American women may die needlessly from breast cancer

each year.”

If a woman younger than 50 or older than 74 wants to get a screening mammogram, can she?

The guidelines do not ban anyone from getting a screening mammogram. Currently the recommendations have not affected

insurance coverage for mammograms but it is not yet known if the guidelines will affect mammography coverage in the future.

The Task Force does not make recommendations regarding insurance coverage but they are infl uential in guiding policy.

So, what should you do? My recommendation is to keep doing what you have been doing for years – talk to your doctor about

your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you.

 

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