'Rocked my world.' Breast cancer survivor reacts to new screening recommendations

Elaina Athans Image
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
New breast cancer screening recommendations announced
The US Preventive Services Task Force is proposing that all women at average risk of breast cancer start screening at age 40.

Christy Redfern was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer a few years ago and went into survival mode. There was the first round of treatment and then a year later she had a reoccurrence.

"It was one of those things that rocked my world. I had two children," Redfern said.

She is finally doing okay now after receiving care at UNC Health.

Redfern said she is backing US Prevention Task Force's new draft guidance for breast cancer screenings, which would drop the age from 50 to 40, but Redfern feels the age hasn't been lower enough.

"Seeing that 40 is great, we're making improvements, but again - I was 35 when diagnosed, Redfern tells ABC11.

Meg Kornegay was also 35 when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage two cancer.

The Wake County educator was forced to have a tough conversation with her kindergartener.

"We explained chemo to him as I got to take this medicine that's going to give me superpowers and is going to make me better," said Kornegay.

There's been evidence in recent years of significant racial disparities, with black women being more likely to get aggressive cancer at younger and 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than White women.

"Black women, in general, are diagnosed later, which means we are dying more because we're diagnosed at a later stage and we aren't able to get those lifesaving treatments in time. Why not lower the age if it means you can save someone's life," said Kornegay.

RELATED | Women should start screening for breast cancer at age 40 instead of 50, new draft guidance says

Medical experts say there are risks to screening too early or often. One possibility is false positives.

"There are these potential harms, but there's a great benefit and the benefit for screening at a young age is early detection and improved survival," said

Dr. Maggie DiNome is the Chief of Breast Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine.

"I do feel like we're seeing more women in the twenties and thirties, and those women don't necessarily get screened early because we don't start screening until women are 40, so we are seeing younger women and I don't know why," said DiNome.

There are a few options for screening. Mammograms are still the golden standard, but ultrasounds and MRIs can also be important tools.

Both Kornegay and Redfern discovered their cancer through a self-examination.

They each have a lot to be thankful for right now. This week, the women are celebrating their respective anniversaries of being cancer free and implore others to get tested early.

"A lot of women get a lot of pushback," said Redfern.

"I am hopeful the more out stories get out there. The more women will make the appointments, keep the appointments and push for their own care," said Kornegay.

Other details about the guidance:

  • This draft recommendation applies to cisgender women and all other people assigned female at birth who are at average risk of breast cancer.
  • It does not apply to people who have already had breast cancer or have a significantly higher-than-average risk because of their genetics, family history, or personal medical history.
  • The Task Force says more research is urgently needed about the benefits of additional screening for women with dense breast tissue, which increases cancer risk and means mammograms may not work as well for them. About half of women have dense breast tissue, but right now there isn't enough evidence on the benefits of additional screening for the Task Force to make a recommendation.
  • The Task Force also says more research is needed about the benefits and harms of screening in women 75 and older. Currently, there isn't enough evidence for the Task Force to recommend for or against screening after 74.
  • Reminder that this is a draft recommendation. The Task Force will hear comments until June 6, and finalize the guidance after.

Background context on breast cancer:

  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among all U.S. women.
  • In 2022, more than 43,000 women died of breast cancer.
  • White women have the highest incidence of breast cancer, followed by Black women.
  • The rate of breast cancer diagnosis among women in their 40s has increased gradually from 2000 to 2015, but increased more noticeably from 2015 to 2019, with a 2% average annual increase within those years.
Black women in their 40s saw the highest breast cancer death rates, the study said.