21st century breast care is constantly changing. Find out what the new American Cancer Society guidelines mean for you.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is one of the leading sources of information, research, and recommendations for cancer of all types, including breast cancer.
In 2015, the ACS sought out to review their breast cancer literature and data with the goal of creating better guidelines for all women. The conclusions they came to were not only interesting, but actually controversial.
The new ACS recommendations for average risk women
It might surprise many people, especially those who have battled breast cancer, to learn that the ACS now recommends later and less frequent screenings. They have pushed back their starting age for mammograms from 40 years old to 45.
However, the ACS does not completely rule out mammograms for women 40 to 44. Instead, they say that women in this age group should have the choice to start annual breast screenings if they wish.
Between the ages of 45 to 54, the ACS recommends that women should undergo annual mammograms. Once a woman reaches the age of 55, the ACS says they should have mammograms every two years, but they can continue with annual screenings if they desire.
Fewer mammograms will hopefully lead to fewer false positives
So why does the ACS recommend fewer screenings? This seems to go against conventional wisdom, which says early detection is the most important weapon against cancer.
It’s all related to false positives.
The problem is that frequent screenings can lead to more false positives, which bring extensive treatment and more testing, as well as the emotional toll that comes with the word “cancer.”
Women under the age of 45 have denser breasts, which makes tumors harder to spot. This gives doctors more trouble locating signs of cancer, and can lead to further procedures, including a breast cancer biopsy which involves removing breast tissue for further testing.
Not everyone agrees with the ASC. Some women have claimed that if these testing recommendations existed years before, their cancer would not have been discovered, and they may not be alive today.
It’s important to remember that these are recommendations, not rules and regulations. Like all health issues, you should discuss the situation with your doctor and your loved ones before reaching a conclusion.
ACS recommendations for higher-risk women
The new ACS recommendations apply to women who have an average risk for cancer, but there are different guidelines for women at a higher risk. For these women, the ACS says that an annual mammogram and an MRI is the best bet.
Determining risk is based on many factors, including family history and whether or not a woman received radiation therapy at some point in her life.
The role of MRIs in breast care and screenings
While mammogram testing is the most common tool for diagnosing breast cancer, MRI machines are also used, but much less frequently. The ACS’s guidelines state that an MRI should only be used on women who have a risk of breast cancer of 15% or more. According to their research, there is simply not enough evidence to support MRI testing for women of average risk for breast cancer.
Friendly, accurate, comfortable testing
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