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For years, women who turn 40 have been advised by their doctors to get a mammogram every year to screen for breast cancer. Now the American Cancer Society is recommending a different approach. Instead of a yearly screening beginning at age 40, the organization only recommends yearly mammograms for women ages 45 to 54. Those who are 55-plus are advised to get one every OTHER year.
The guidelines apply only to women who have an average risk for breast cancer--women with no family history of the disease or who don't have the genetic mutations (like the BRCA gene) that increase their risk factors. Women in high risk groups will be screened every year, as always.
There are several reasons behind the policy switch. Breast cancer is more common, and tumors grow more aggressively, in women ages 45 to 55. For women younger than 45, the risk of a false-positive screening--in other words, the doctor spots something on the mammogram and biopsies it, only to find it's a benign cyst--outweighs the benefits of catching something early.
Although the American Cancer Society took pains to say that its recommendations are evidence based, they will probably cause some controversy--not to mention confusion--as women and their doctors shift gears.
via The New York Times