Changes in starting age, frequency only for women with average risk
PHILADELPHIA -- A major doctors' group is changing its guidelines on when and how often women should get mammograms for breast cancer screening.
The change is designed to reduce the potential harms and worry.
However, there may be some pushback on the change.
The new recommendations by the Philadelphia-based American College of Physicians are only for women with an average risk of breast cancer.
That includes women with no personal history of breast cancer, and no genetic mutations that raise their risk.
The current guidelines recommend to start mammograms at age 40.
The new ones move that to age 50.
And it's not the only change.
It also only recommends mammograms every other year up to age 74. Currently the guidelines call for annual testing.
The College of Physicians made this change, because it says annual tests result in more false positives and overtreatment, as well as more radiation exposure and worry.
The group's president says the new starting age of 50 may not apply to everyone.
It's not a rule, but a guideline.
"Beginning at age 40, women at average risk of breast cancer with no symptoms, should begin to have the conversation with their physician about the benefits, the harms of breast cancer screening," says Dr Ana Maria Lopez, president of the American College of Physicians.
"The patient, the physician need to come together, what is the best recommendation for this patient," she adds.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends mammograms every other year, starting at 50.
However, the American Cancer Society is sticking with yearly screening, starting at 40.
Robert Smith, Ph.D., the Cancer Society's vice president for cancer screening says, "Different experts and different groups can review similar evidence and draw conclusions that have some minor differences."
Smith adds, "The most important thing to recognize is that all of these guidelines stress that regular mammography plays an important role in breast cancer early detection, and women should be aware of its benefits and limitations, and also remain vigilant and report any breast changes."