Doctors are beginning to speak up about the new guidelines for breast cancer screening, fearing they may be too lax.
We reported earlier that the American Cancer Society had recently issued a new set of guidelines for women entering their later years about when the appropriate time to start screening for breast cancer is. The new guidelines stated that women could wait until age 45 to begin receiving regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer, up five years from the previous recommended age of 40.
According to a report from the Huffington Post, however, doctors are beginning to raise concerns about the new guidelines. The ACS states, “Research does not show a clear benefit of physical breast exams done by either a health professional or by yourself for breast cancer screening. Due to this lack of evidence, regular clinical breast exam and breast self-exam are not recommended. Still, all women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.”
The new recommendations were intended to decrease the number of unnecessary scans and treatments, which can often be painful, invasive, and costly. Some doctors worry, however, that the shift in screening guidelines will result in an increase in the number of breast cancer cases that go undetected.
Doctor Daniel Kopans, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, agrees that the new guidelines may be too lax. Kopans said that women and their doctors should communicate to determine the appropriate age to begin screening for breast cancer based on specific risk factors faced by that individual. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has stated that evidence supports that mammograms reduce breast cancer deaths in women aged 40 to 74, and those five years shaved off from the old recommendations could be the difference between life and death in many cases.
At the root of the issue are insurance costs for mammograms. The ACS and other health agencies appear to be pushing the age back to ease costs on cancer screening programs, but will a few dollars be with the lives that could be saved by adequate testing?