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November 17, 2009

New Guidelines For Breast Cancer Screening

This is a huge boon for women -- the the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has recommended that women who are not in the high-risk category for developing breast cancer get mammograms every other year starting at age 50. This is a reversal of the ruling from 7 years ago that recommended women have mammograms every one to two years starting at age 40.

Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chairwoman of the task force and a professor of biomedical informatics at Arizona State University, said the guidelines were based on new data and analyses and were aimed at reducing the potential harm from overscreening. Dr. Petitti said she knew the new guidelines would be a shock for many women, but, she said, “we have to say what we see based on the science and the data.”

The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology are staying with the old guidelines. The National Cancer Institute says it's re-evaluating its guidelines based upon the panel's new reports.

This is not to say that women who are known to carry a breast cancer gene, or those who have undergone extensive chest radiation, should not continue to be screened for breast cancer under the old guidelines. Some experts also say that women with close relative who have had breast cancer should continue to be screened by the old guidelines.

The bottom line message is for women to have 10 mammograms in a lifetime, starting at age 50. This way, women get the most benefit of screening with the least harm. And for women who are healthy, they may consider continuing to get mammograms only every other year until they reach age 74.

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Posted by linda at November 17, 2009 5:00 PM

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