Recent study recommends mammograms taken at 50, not 40
The United States Preventative Task Force recently said women do not have to start getting annual mammograms until age 50.
Two local doctors said new national guidelines for mammography, which changed from age 40, should not be a cause for concern.
The United States Preventive Task Force looks at different issues in American health and recently looked at issues in mammography.
Dr. Ahmad Hakemi, a physician assistant program director at Central Michigan University, said these are simply guidelines done by a United States independent agency and, when making these guidelines, it looks at cost effectiveness and saving lives.
“Studies show the number of lives we save are miniscule compared to the mammograms given. The issue with younger mammograms is they aren’t as accurate because most of what they find is benign,” Hakemi said. “Starting at 40, there’s a one in 250,000 chance that it will be cancer.”
The inaccuracy of mammograms before age 50 was another area of concern that shaped the new guidelines. The task force noted the increased worrying and unnecessary tests that are the result of the early mammograms can do more harm than good.
Dr. David Howell, medical director for radiation at Norval K. Morey Cancer Center at Central Michigan Community Hospital, 1221 South Drive, said screened mammography in women reduces the death rate by 15 percent, compared to people who do not get screened.
Howell said much of the guidelines come down to complicated math. The task force found that in women ages 40 to 49, one death is prevented in 1,900 women annually screened for the 10-year period.
The guidelines are saying the Task Force has found this small difference, but it is not certain if that difference is worthwhile, leading to the change in guidelines.
Howell said he realizes the subject is sensitive with all the emotional personal stories and anecdotes seen in the media. It is hard to grasp the concept that not everyone needs a mammogram before age 50 when people have automatically assumed breast cancer equals death, he said.
With only a slight increase in death reduction for women ages 40 to 49 who receive annual mammograms, Howell said women who do not feel this small percent warrants a yearly mammogram until age 50 should not be stigmatized. Hakemi also agrees.
“I feel these guidelines are valid, it just depends on the woman and her risk factors,” Hakemi said.
Both doctors said women with an increased risk of breast cancer in their family should begin mammograms earlier than those without risk factors.
Though people are concerned with possible changes in insurance coverage, nothing can happen immediately.
“This is just information being put out. Nothing has been said that woman can’t get mammograms at 40, and nothing to say that insurance won’t cover it,” Howell said.
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