Experts disagree on frequency and starting point for mammogram screenings.
The United States Preventative Services Task Force has issued new recommendations for mammography screening for breast cancer, but will there be any differences in how women and their physicians choose to apply the testing procedure?
The task force, which is a committee of independent medical experts convened by the government, says the research clearly shows that mammograms should be taken by women between the ages of 50 and 74 at least every other year, but many in the medical community disagree with those recommendations, according to the Huffington Post.
The American Cancer Society (ACA) recently posted its recommendations that all women should begin mammography testing at 45 and begin biennial screening after reaching 55 years of age.
Of course, these recommendations don’t apply to women with a high risk of breast cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease or who have had an incidence of breast cancer in the past.
The reasoning behind the task force’s new guidelines, in addition to the research, is that annual screenings detect to a high number of false positive tests, leading to psychological stress and over-treatment by physicians that could result in surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
In 2009, the task force recommended for the first time average-risk women in their 40’s should not undergo annual screenings and created a firestorm of controversy with the announcement. Immediately the ACA spoke out against the recommendations and even Congress added a provision to the Affordable Care Act that made sure women in their 40’s who elected to have a mammogram would be covered under their insurance plan.
President Obama extended the coverage through 2017 with the signing of a law last month ensuring insurance companies would still cover the procedures.
All the controversy is causing confusion among women who just want to know when they need to start having mammograms and how often should they have them as they grow older. Despite the murky waters of the various recommendations, all experts say women should begin with a conversation with their own physician.
Many women feel the inconveniences of a false positive are small compared to the risk of a cancer going undetected at an early and treatable stage and will continue to have yearly checkups despite the recommendations.