According to new guidelines released by the American Cancer Society Tuesday, women with an average risk can wait until they reach age 45 to get their first mammogram. The guidelines also say screening is only needed every other year after age 55.
Previously, the American Cancer Society suggested that most women could begin receiving annual mammograms at the age of 40 and continue through their lives, AL reports. But now, they are recommending fewer mammograms and later.
Director of preventive medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Mona Fouad, said that experts reviewed the benefits and harms of mammograms for younger women and discovered that the benefits of annual mammograms outweighed the harm starting at age 45. Before then, the risks seem to outweigh the benefits.
Fouad said that women should discuss their options with their doctors. “If she feels comfortable to wait until 45, I would myself do that.”
The guidelines, which were published online in JAMA Tuesday, also state that women can transition into being screened every other year at age 55. Why? Because breast cancers tend to grow at a slower pace after menopause. This makes it safer for women to be checked less often.
Additionally, the society stated that doctors do not need to perform breast exams during regular women’s checkups. The society stressed that its guidelines aren’t meant to stop women from starting screening earlier if they want to, especially if a woman is already a breast cancer survivor or if a woman’s family has a genetic history of the disease.
Chief cancer control officer at the society and co-author of the guidelines, Richard Wender, said that the new guidelines are “more personalized and tailored” and they create “a roadmap to guide a woman’s screening decisions throughout her lifespan.”
“It will require that women have a richer understanding of the different recommendations matching different age groups,” Wender said.
With that being said, some admit that these new guidelines don’t match up with other organizations’ recommendations. This is confusing for women and can make feeling confident about when to get screened challenging.
“It’s important that as we have more information, we should really let doctors and women determine the best choices,” Fouad said. “Finding exactly the right age is a very complex thing.”
It would be lovely if everyone could just agree on an age. However, women should always feel comfortable talking to their doctors about the benefits of mammograms at any age and pay attention to any physical changes.