Mammograms in Your 40s?
If you have a family history of breast cancer or very dense breast tissue, you're a candidate for starting to get mammograms every two years when you're in your 40s. That's the finding of a study funded by the National Cancer Institute and published on May 1st in the Annals of Internal Medicine which showed that the benefits of this approach outweigh any risks.
According to HealthDay, lead researcher Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt, associate director for population sciences at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. said: "Among a group of women who have twice the average level of risk, screening every other year starting at age 40 has the same balance of benefit and harms as starting at age 50."
A mammogram debate has been raging since 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that mammograms every two years for women in their 40s at average risk resulted in too many false-positives that led to unnecessary anxiety and invasive procedures. The Task Force also said that women 50 to 70 should have mammograms every two years rather than annually. The American Cancer Society disagreed with both of those pronouncements and continues to maintain that all women should get mammograms every year from the time they turn 40.
HealthDay reports that in an editorial accompanying the new research, Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society wrote that risk-based screening -- zeroing in on those at higher risk -- can focus on the women most likely to benefit. "Ultimately, the preferences of individual women, recognizing the potential for harm and benefit, should be respected," he said.