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Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Who Says I Don't Need a Mammogram Until I'm 50?"

It used to be at age 40 that women were told they should start having mammograms. Now they are saying age 50. But just who are "they"?? And why did they change the age?

When to have a mammogram

Before 2009, the recommended age to have yearly mammograms was 40. But, according to The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), women with an average breast cancer risk do not need annual mammograms until age 50.

Who is the USPSTF?

The USPSTF consists of 16 experts in primary care, prevention, and evidence-based medicine, who are appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They are responsible for issuing the guidelines.

Why did they change the age from 40 to 50?

According to a USPSTF study, 12 percent of women from age 40-49 who had mammograms experienced what they call "false positives." False positives can cause unnecessary tests and risky procedures. In addition, Nancy Keating, MD, a professor at Harvard Medical School, stated that the mammogram benefits women age 60-69 the most, and women age 40-49 the least.

What about the risks?

Many are concerned about the change because they feel it puts more women at greater risk for delayed breast cancer diagnoses and deaths. The American Cancer Society changed their age recommendation from age 40 to age 45, and The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests regular screenings beginning at age 40.

So, the bottom line is that it is a personal decision for all women. Of course, women who have a history of breast cancer in their family would want to start earlier than the recommended age of 50. The good news is that under the Affordable Care Act, mammograms are considered preventative treatment, and it is covered for women 40 and older.

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