New Mammogram Screening Guidelines FAQ
Why is routine screening no longer recommended for women of average risk before age 50 and after age 74?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) will continue to recommend annual
mammography screening to all healthy women starting at age 40.
Fontham says since age is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer, it
makes little sense to stop screening relatively healthy women when they reach
"Screening would be a disservice for a woman in her 80s with three or four
serious health conditions who could not tolerate treatment even if a tumor was
found," Fontham says. "But there are plenty of relatively healthy women in
their late 70s and 80s for whom screening may be appropriate."
In a joint statement emailed to WebMD, the American College of Radiology
(ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging say the new guidelines could cost
Calling the guidelines a "cost-cutting" measure, the ACR states that "two
decades of decline in breast cancer mortality could be reversed and countless
American women may die needlessly from breast cancer each year."
In the statement, Carol H. Lee, MD, chairwoman of the ACR's Breast Imaging
Commission, calls the USPSTF recommendations "unfounded." Lee adds,
"Mammography is not a perfect test, but it has unquestionably been shown to
save lives -- including in women aged 40-49."
Why is the USPSTF recommending routine mammograms every two years instead of every year?
Because that's the time frame that looked beneficial to the task force.
Studies showing a reduction in breast cancer deaths associated with
mammography included screening intervals of 12 to 33 months. The evidence
indicated that most of the benefits of screening are maintained when
mammography is performed every two years as opposed to every one, while the
harms are reduced by nearly half.
Kathryn Evers, MD, who directs the mammography program at Philadelphia's Fox
Chase Cancer Center, tells WebMD she will continue to recommend annual
mammograms to her patients.
"The evidence shows that by changing to biannual screening you lose some of
the mortality benefits seen with yearly screening," Evers says.