Get that mammogram. No matter what you may read online or hear from certain doctors.
According to a research letter published today by JAMA Internal Medicine, a number of reputable organizations offer different guidelines on when to get breast cancer screenings, as well as the optimal amount of time between screenings. As a result, physicians are offering their patients different information. In other words, there’s a lack of consistency — and that can lead to confusion.
But err on the side of caution, says one expert, because mammograms can detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. And there’s no validity to the notion that annual screenings may jeopardize a woman’s health.
“There are no studies that show screening mammography causes breast cancer,” emphasizes Mitva Patel, MD, a breast radiologist at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, tells Yahoo Beauty.
“The amount of radiation a typical woman receives from an annual mammogram is equal to three months of natural background radiation. It’s really very, very small, and when we weigh the risks of missing early detection of cancer that could kill you versus the small amount of radiation that you are getting from your mammogram — the benefit from that small amount of radiation far outweighs the risk.”
Still, it’s hard to make sense of all the information out there.
- In 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) revised its guidelines to encourage personalized screening decisions for women 40 to 44, followed by annual screening starting at age 45 and biennial screening for women 55 or older.
- In 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) reissued its recommendations to recommend personalized screening decisions for women 40 to 49, followed by biennial mammograms for women 50 to 74.
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends yearly mammograms for women 40 and older.
After questioning 871 physicians, the medical researchers from the JAMA survey discovered that the greatest number of the doctors (26 percent) reported trusting ACOG guidelines, while 23.8 percent went with the ACS guidelines, and 22.9 percent endorsed the USPSTF guidelines.
Patel stands by the recommended guidelines offered by the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, which advise women to obtain an annual mammogram starting at age 40. “I follow these recommendations myself,” adds Patel. “I’m 42, and have had my annual mammogram at age 40, 41, and 42.”
While conflicting information continues to be released, she explains that “the benefits of mammography greatly exceed the harm for women in their 40s. In fact, one in six breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49, and 40 percent of all the years of life saved by mammography is among women in their 40s.”
A few risk factors of breast cancer include having dense breasts, having a family history of the disease, and taking hormones to replace missing estrogen and progesterone for more than five years. “The main risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older — two things that we cannot control,” concludes Patel.
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