If you have been confused in the past by changes in breast cancer screening guidelines, buckle up! Recently, more changes have been passed down as guidelines, so it’s important to make sure you’re knowledgeable.
Differing guidelines are espoused by three important groups involved in protecting women from breast cancer. The newest change was announced in May of this year, and is primarily concerned with “individual risk profiles.” Here are the new breast cancer screening guidelines you should know about.
The Three Most Influential Guidelines
There are a number of groups and associations that provide guidelines about breast cancer screening, and we will focus on these three.
- The American Cancer Society
- The US Preventive Services Task Force
- The American Society Of Breast Surgeons
The Most Recent Changes and Why
The American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBrS) is the largest organization of breast cancer surgeons in the US. This group justifies their new guidelines based on their unique perspective of first hand relationship with breast cancer patients and the journey through the disease. They advocate for increased years of life versus costs.
They recommend the following changes:
- All women should undergo a formal risk assessment performed by their physician at age 25 – 30
- Those women with average risk should begin annual screening mammograms at age 40
- Those women with predicted lifetime risks greater than 20% should begin annual mammograms with an MRI offered at age 35
- Screening mammography should stop with the lifespan is less than 10 years (age 74)
The risk assessment should include a full family history of breast cancer, a discussion of genetic testing, and presence of BRCA gene. Women with average risk and dense breasts are recommended to undergo an annual 3D mammography for more thorough analysis of their breast tissue.
The ASBrS believes that catching cancer early increases the odds of a successful treatment and accounts for individual risk profiles. More details about the ASBrS and their approach to early breast cancer diagnosis can be found in their own detailed statement about the topic.
Guidelines Set by the American Cancer Society
This group holds to the following guidelines:
- Women of average risk should begin annual mammograms at age 45 through age 54
- After age 54 mammograms should be performed every other year
Guidelines Set by the US Preventive Services Task Force
This group differs from the other two in its recommendations:
- Women of average risk should begin breast cancer screening at 50 years of age
- These mammograms should be continued every other year until age 74
This organization believes that the issue of risks and adverse effects should determine when and how often women should have breast cancer screenings. There is always the probability of false positives and false negatives, over treatment, unnecessary procedures, additional costs, and anxiety that may lead to inaccurate findings. This causes many doctors to question the value of breast cancer screening including when to begin, how often, and how long to continue said screenings.
What’s Best for You?
It is important to do self exams, clinical exams, and screenings. Implementing all three together are your best defense against breast cancer. Instead of becoming even more confused, have a discussion with Virginia Women’s Health Associates to determine a plan that’s right for you.