While American Cancer Society Still Recommends Women Begin Annual Mammograms at Age 40 (dateline April 20, 2007) | Breast Health News | Imaginis - The Women's Health & Wellness Resource Network

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American Cancer Society Still Recommends Women Begin Annual Mammograms at Age 40 (dateline April 20, 2007)

While mammography guidelines have been debated by health experts in recent years, the American Cancer Society announced that it is keeping its recommendation that women begin receiving annual mammograms at age 40. Other organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute, recommend mammmograms for women every one to two years from age 40 to 50 and then every year after age 50. However, the American Cancer Society believes the benefits of annual mammography beginning at age 40 outweigh the risk of inaccurate results.

A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast that can detect breast abnormalities, including cancer. Mammography is considered the gold standard in breast cancer detection. It detects approximately 80% of breast cancers and can detect cancer years before a lump can be felt by touch.

Recently, several health organizations have revised their guidelines for mammography, de-emphasizing the need for women in their forties to receive the exam. For example, American College of Physicians (ACP) says women in their forties should talk with their physicians about the benefits and risks of mammography. In addition, the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend mammograms every one to two years for women in their forties.

These organizations recommend fewer mammograms for women younger than fifty because mammograms can sometimes produce inaccurate results, indicating a breast abnormality when none is present. These inaccuracies can lead to unnecessary breast biopsies. Inaccurate results are more common in younger women who tend to have more dense breast tissue. Other disadvantages to mammography include temporary pain from the procedure and a small amount of radiation exposure.

However, the American Cancer Society maintains that annual mammograms are beneficial for women in their forties. According to Robert Smith, the director of cancer screening, new studies indicate that mammography can reduce breast cancer deaths by 40% among this subset of women.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 178,480 women will develop breast cancer in 2007, and 40,460 women will die from the diease. It also estimates that about 17% of invasive breast cancers occur in women in their 40s.

The American Cancer Society's breast cancer screening guidelines recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40, annual clinical breast exams beginning at age 20, and monthly breast self exams. Some experts recommend that women with a strong family history of breast cancer or other factors that put them at high risk for the disease discuss the possibility of beginning annual mammograms before age 40.

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