The American Cancer Society (ACS) released new guidelines for breast cancer that recommend fewer, less frequent screenings. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are an estimated 220,000 new breast cancer cases diagnosed in women and about 2,000 in men every year.
One of the most common breast cancer screening methods is a mammogram, which involves using X-ray technology to examine changes in breast tissues. The screening process involves placing breasts individually in between two specialized plates and applying gentle compression around the breast. After a doctor performs a mammogram, it can take up to a week to review the results of the screening and examine for tissue abnormalities.
The old ACS guidelines recommended that women be screened for breast cancer annually starting at the age of 40. However, the ACS now recommends mammograms starting at an older age and taken less often because of flaws within the breast cancer screening procedure.
New Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screenings
According to the new recommendations, women should be screened annually starting at the age of 45 and forgo manual breast exams by doctors. For women over the age of 50, the ACS recommends scheduling mammograms every other year. The new guidelines are based on their data that suggest that these screenings are not helping detect breast cancer because of the rate of the diagnostic procedures performed and unsophisticated medical equipment.
The breast cancer diagnosis rate in women generally increases by age, making screening as you get older more important. While it is rarer in younger women, it is also often more difficult to correctly detect.
Mammograms as a diagnostic method can render false positive results. A doctor may mistake breast tissue as malignant when it is healthy. This mistake can occur because the breast tissue in younger women is denser than breast tissue in older women, which makes tumors and abnormalities more difficult to detect.
False positive breast cancer results are typically followed by additional mammogram screenings and painful biopsies of breast tissue for further analysis. For many women, the emotional and traumatic experience of having a false positive result can sometimes deter them from regular breast cancer checks in the future. However, skipping breast cancer screenings can sometimes lead to advanced stages of the disease that are difficult to treat through chemotherapy.
When to Get Screened for Breast Cancer
As the patient, you have the power to make an informed decision about your health with the help of your doctor. According to the CDC, the risk for breast cancer significantly increases in women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or have a family history of breast cancer. You can make your decision to get screened for breast cancer based on these risk factors. If you cannot afford a mammogram, the CDC’s National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program offers free or low-cost breast cancer screenings. For more information, you can call (800) CDC-INFO.