The American Cancer Society has released a new set of controversial mammogram guidelines, recommending that women receive fewer screens.
Mammograms have been an essential tool in the fight against breast cancer, but doctors appear to be suggesting that less is more when it comes to screening for the disease. According to a report from CNN, the American Cancer Society’s new guidelines for mammograms have raised much controversy by suggesting that women skip the screening.
The ACS recommended that women begin getting mammograms at the age of 45, instead of the previously recommended 40. They also said that it is okay to skip the manual breast exams routinely performed by physicians.
Doctors aren’t simply throwing caution into the wind, however. An extensive review of studies carried out on mammograms and breast cancer outcomes suggests that screening at this point in a woman’s life simply isn’t necessary.
According to Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, “The chance that you’re going to find a cancer and save a life is actually very small.”
The recommended starting age for mammograms has become a point of contention between rival medical groups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends starting at age 40, the ACS recommends 45, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends beginning mammograms at age 50.
Mammograms tend to have a high false positive rate, which can lead to women who don’t actually have breast cancer going painful tests and treatments. False positives are higher in women under 45, as tumors are generally more difficult to spot in denser breast tissue.
“If she starts screening at age 40, she increases the risk that she’ll need a breast cancer biopsy that turns out with the doctor saying ‘You don’t have cancer, so sorry we put you through all this,’” Brawley said.