Breast health

More confusion over mammography

The American Cancer Society changes mammography recommendations yet again

Mammograms, x-rays of the breast are routinely performed on women for the purpose of diagnosing breast cancer at its early stages when the chances for a cure are highest. While that goal certainly makes a lot of sense, the science behind mammography and its usefulness are turning out to be a moving target.

It seems that every year, mammography recommendations continue to change as we learn more about what breast imaging can and cannot achieve. Just this month, American Cancer Society has changed its mammography recommendations once again.

The new ACS Mammography guidelines are as follows:

  • 40-44: annual mammography optional
  • 45-54: annual mammography recommended 
  • 55+: mammography every 1-2 years
  • Screening should continue for as long as a woman is expected to live at least 10 more years
  • All women should learn about the risks, benefits and limitations of screening and learn their own normal breast anatomy through self examination.

So, does that mean my doctor (OR MIDWIFE) and I should cut back on how often I get my mammograms?  maybe, maybe not.

  • There is really no consensus. Other organizations that issue mammogram recommendations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the US Preventative Health Task Force either have not changed their guidelines or offer different recommendations.
  • ACOG continues to recommend offering annual mammography after age 40
  • Women at high risk such as those who carry BRCA gene mutations and those with an extensive family histories of breast cancer (particularly at a young age) are usually advised to start screening much sooner.