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Mammography Rates Unchanged Despite Guidelines

Annual screenings continue as women, doctors appear to be ignoring task force recommendations, new data shows

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But even if a woman's doctor advises reducing the number of mammograms or waiting until age 50, "patients can self-refer for mammography," Pace said.

"It's an emotionally charged decision for women and doctors as well," she added.

"I'm not surprised by this," said Dr. Joanne Mortimer, co-director of the breast cancer program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, who reviewed the findings.

She, too, speculated there could be many reasons behind the findings. "It takes years for doctors to change their practice," she said, adding that many doctors may still not be comfortable with the new guidelines.

Doctors could also be reluctant to suggest delayed screenings for younger women or expanding the interval between tests for older women, Mortimer added, because of fears of possible lawsuits if a cancer goes unnoticed.

Insurers have not looked to the task force recommendations as a reason to drop coverage for mammograms, both Mortimer and Pace noted.

And screening mammograms every one to two years are due to be covered, without expense, as a preventive care service under the Affordable Care Act for women over 40.

The task force aims to review each medical topic every five years, according to a spokesperson. By that schedule, screening mammogram recommendations would be due for a re-evaluation in 2014.

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