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Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014

News

KDKA-TV: Medical Experts Weigh In On Mammogram Controversy

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

KDKA-TV (Link to Story)

Sweeping new U.S. breast cancer screening guidelines are calling for an end to routine mammograms for women in their 40s and for women 50 to 74 they suggest a mammogram every other year. 

At age 40, yearly mammograms become part of a woman's life to look for breast cancer.

Now a government task force says it is okay to wait until you're 50 to get this screening test.

Some women are concerned about waiting an extra decade.

"A lot of the women's health problems start more in their 30s and early 40s," says a woman walking along Penn Avenue in the Strip.

"The sooner you can get tested, the better," says another woman.

"I agree that starting at age 50 is a good age to begin screening. Forty might be too young," says a more mature woman.

"Patients are calling, reporters are calling us, consumers, family members, everybody is very interested in this," says Dr. Nancy Davidson of the UPMC Cancer Institute. "Breast cancer is largely a disease of women over the age of 50, it makes sense to think about tailoring your screening recommendations to particularly target the women who are at risk."

The American Cancer Society still recommends screening starting at 40.

"Our job is to make an early diagnosis of breast cancer because we want a small tumor that doesn't spread," says Dr. William Poller of Allegheny General Hospital's Breast Imaging Center. "We've seen early detection means better prognosis, more lives saved."

"I think many organizations are looking at their policies right now," says Dr. Davidson. "Different organizations, different citizens of the world look at the same data set and have slightly different guidelines."

That's not to say women younger than 50 won't be getting mammograms, but it's something to discuss and plan based on individual risk.

"It's by no means perfect. So the opportunity to think about better ways to screen, ways to think about prevention, and ways to counsel women about their risk more effectively -- these are all incredibly important research questions," Dr. Davidson says.

The government task force is made up of primary care doctors and nurses with interests in public health and biomedical information and policy.

In making its recommendations, the panel took into account the lower incidence of breast cancer in younger women and that screening younger women can lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies.

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