BREAKING: American Cancer Society Issues New Mammogram Guidelines

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has just released updated recommendations on mammograms – a move that is sure to add to the debate about at what age, and how frequently, women should get the potentially life-saving procedure.

The guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), said that women can start getting annual mammograms at age 45. Previously, the ACS said that women can start getting annual mammograms at age 40.

Under the new recommendations, the cancer society said that annual mammograms continue until age 54. After that, they said, women could have mammograms every two years.

All the guidelines are for women who have no high risks for breast cancer – i.e. a family history of the disease or a genetic mutation known as the “breast cancer gene.”

Additionally, the ACS said that they had found no benefits in a clinical breast exam, which involves health-care practitioners feeling for lumps, if there has been no abnormality in the breasts.

The new guidelines are the latest addition to an ongoing debate about the efficacy of mammograms. Previously, the government-appointed U.S. Preventive Service Task Force had recommended that mammograms begin at age 50 and that they be done every two years. With its new guidelines, the ACS moves closer to that recommendation.

Advocates of women getting fewer mammograms say that the test is not perfect and that it can lead to false positives involving unnecessary biopsies. They also say that the procedure may uncover some cancers that may not be life-threatening and that women may be “overtreated” as a result.

Specifically, the ACS guidelines recommend:

0-44 Should have opportunity for annual mammograms

45-54 Annual mammogram screening

55+ Mammograms every two years/or have an opportunity to get an annual mammogram

Past 55 Women should continue screening as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or more.

The nonprofit Susan G. Komen Foundation, an advocate for more frequent mammograms, said that the ongoing debate about the procedure ignores the fact that about one third of women who should be screened don’t have access “because of economic and other barriers.”

The organization, in a statement, called for development of better mammogram techniques.

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