The new guidelines released Tuesday by the American Cancer Society suggest women push back their first mammogram from age 40 to 45. The organization says women should start getting mammograms at 45 instead of 40, and skip routine manual breast checks by doctors. And the society is no longer recommending annual breast exams by a doctor.
Shelby Terstriep, Medical Oncologist at Sanford gives her opinion on the new guidelines. Why is the American Cancer Society recommending against clinical breast exams? Before that, the risks appear to outweigh the benefits for most women.
"It's scary when you're waiting to find out the results", she said.
According to Drs. Nancy Keating and Lydia Pace of Brigham and Women's Hospital, who added an editorial for the new guidelines, "about 85 percent of women in their 40s and 50s who die of breast cancer would have died regardless of mammography".
Cindy Mason, who's also 61, recently had a small, very early cancer diagnosed with annual screening. These lead to worry and more testing - they mean an initial result was suspicious but that cancer was ruled out by additional scans and sometimes biopsies.
Most health plans are required to cover screening mammograms free of charge as part of preventive care mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and many insurers cover the screenings starting at age 40.
"For the average woman with no risk factors, no genetic predisposition, to family history, starting at age 45 is probably reasonable".
The decision of whether to get a mammogram remains a personal one, though, and women should discuss it with their doctors, said Kolb.
Less is apparently better than more when it comes to breast cancer screenings.
Dr. Donald Buckland is the Regional Medical Director for US Healthworks, AZ.
Those sentiments are shared by the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation in Sacramento.
In 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force made a new recommendation that many considered blasphemy: maybe women don't need mammograms as early or as often. But until then, women should feel empowered to talk to their doctor about the benefits of mammogram at any given age.
"Between 40 and 44, breast cancer is less common".
"They seem to have wanted to account for the inconvenience of a recall from screening to suggest that some women might prefer to chance an avoidable death for a reduced chance of being recalled for a few extra pictures or an ultrasound", he said. "So, it's nice to have the American Cancer Society support what we've been telling patients at Mayo Clinic".
There's confusion right now over when women should start having mammograms to screen for breast cancer.