New breast cancer guidelines released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women should undergo annual mammograms beginning at age 45 instead of age 40. This has raised mixed reactions form health experts, patients and medical practitioners throughout the healthcare industry.
A woman's risk of developing breast cancer begins to rise at the age of 45, said Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer of the ACS.
"The new guidelines reflect the growing recognition that mammograms can do harm as well as good. Before [age 45], a woman is more likely to be hurt than helped by mammograms, which can produce false-positive results that may lead to unnecessary follow-up testing and invasive biopsies," said Wender.
The new standards published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
states that women no longer need to undergo breast exams during general medical check-ups, as the exams have not been shown to successfully prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.
Guidelines from the American Cancer Society is widely recognized for its charity and advocacy in the prevention and treatment of cancer. The latest guidelines for breast cancer has come as a surprise to many physicians and researchers in the field.
Dr Frank Powell, a surgeon specializing in breast surgery at Piedmont-Newnan Hospital, said the guidelines reflect a decline in routine medical testing.
"My initial reaction was that the change was not surprising, since the trend has been to do less screenings over the last few years. However, every woman should be treated individually to decide what is best for them and for their circumstances," said Powell.
Most women overestimate how much mammograms actually help, said Lisa Schwartz, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire.
Some studies show mammograms only reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 15 percent, said Schwartz.
ACS says that despite the new guidelines and information, decision about cancer screenings are an expression of each woman's personal beliefs and values.