Changing recommendations for when women should get mammograms have created conflict and confusion. Not only do recommendations from different sources vary, but some have moved in opposite directions. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force scaled back its recommendation in 2009, saying women at average risk should begin screening at age 50 and repeat the test every two years. The group, the governments’s independent panel of preventative-health experts, said women in their 40’s should discuss the pros and cons of screening,including possible false positives and follow-up tests, with their physicians. Previously the task force had recommended mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40.
Mayo Clinic doctors continue to review studies about mammogram guidelines to understand what the studies mean for women’s health. Changes to mammogram guidelines might or might not be necessary in the future, as researchers continue studying this topic. Mayo Clinic supports screening beginning at age 40 because screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40s. Findings from a large study in Sweden of women in their 40s who underwent screening mammograms showed a decrease in breast cancer deaths by 29 percent.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. That is why it is very important for all menopausal women to get regular mammograms.Mammography is your best defense against breast cancer because it can detect the disease in its early stages, before it can be felt during a breast exam. Research has shown that mammography can increase breast cancer survival. Whether you need a mammogram is a personal decision between you and your doctor. If you’re over 40, talk to your doctor about when you should begin mammogram screening. Some doctors recommend starting earlier than age 40. This decision depends on your individual risk factors.
“It’s clear that the more mammograms you give, the more able you are to locate disease that a person didn’t know about.” But testing with increasing frequency has diminishing returns, while boosting the odds of “false positives” that can be traumatic to women and lead to unneeded biopsies that drive up health costs. With screening guidelines and financial coverage varying among health systems and insurers also provides estimates of the relative costs incurred by screening populations of women at greater or lesser intervals – an important issue for health policymakers.
But mammogram screening isn’t perfect. Another study concluded that despite more women being diagnosed with early breast cancer due to mammogram screening, the number of women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer hasn’t decreased. The study suggested that some women with early breast cancer were diagnosed with cancer that may never have affected their health. Unfortunately doctors can’t distinguish dangerous breast cancers from those that are non-life-threatening, so annual mammograms remain the best option for detecting cancer early and reducing the risk of death from breast cancer.
Mammograms should be part of every woman’s preventative healthcare. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. A mammogram can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes. How often you should have a mammogram depends on your age and your risk of breast cancer.