Pink: Latest screening recommendations
This article appears in Paint It All Pink magazine 2019.
After decades of controversy there still is no national consensus about when women should start having mammograms and how frequently they should undergo screening.
But now another medical society has concurred with the recommendations of the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.
The American College of Physicians recommends that average-risk women between ages 50 and 74 should undergo breast cancer screening with mammography every other year, instead of every year.
The American College of Radiation disagrees and recommends annual mammography screening starting at 40 for women of average risk of developing breast cancer.
“The conflicting guidelines do lead to a lot of confusion among women, as well as a lot of worry,” said Dr. Deanna Attai, assistant clinical professor in the department of surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. “There is no question that the regular use of screening mammography has resulted in improved survival from breast cancer, but ‘early detection saves lives’ does not apply to every case — there is much more nuance to all of this.
“Currently, there should be a discussion of the potential benefits as well as harms from mammography, as well as consideration of the patient’s perspective in terms of risk tolerance and cancer worry. It should also be stressed again that these guidelines do not apply to high-risk patients,” Attai said.
In March the Food and Drug Administration announced the first policy changes in mammogram recommendations to modernize breast cancer screenings and provide patients with more information to make better-informed decisions. Mammogram providers should now alert patients if they have dense breasts, which is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and makes it more difficult to spot a tumor with a mammogram. It is advised women with dense breasts should get further testing, such as an MRI or ultrasound.