M. D. Anderson Maintains Mammogram Recommendations

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mammogram.jpgIf you're a woman or a spouse or loved one of a woman -- and that likely covers most people we know -- you may be struggling with how to interpret some new guidelines on breast cancer screenings that were issued today by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. You're probably very surprised to read their recommendations to push back initial mammograms to age 50 and conduct follow-ups every two years.

Thanks to the efforts of the American Cancer Society, Komen for the Cure, Avon, many other advocacy groups and even M. D. Anderson's own Public Education Office, it's likely that most women and their physicians would answer "40 years old" to the question: At what age should you get your first mammogram? Furthermore, we'd expect to hear "every year" in response to the question of how often to have this test.

Based on practices in our Cancer Prevention Center and the risk-based guidelines for breast cancer screenings, M. D. Anderson is standing by those recommendations.  

If you're of average risk, M. D. Anderson recommends you get your first mammogram at age 40 and return every year after that for regular screenings. If you aren't sure how to assess your risk, we recommend setting up time with your physician.

"We believe the benefits of an annual mammogram outweigh the risks for women, starting at age 40," says Therese Bevers, M.D., professor and director of M. D. Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center.

M. D. Anderson has studied the effectiveness of breast cancer screening and M. D. Anderson faculty contributed to the modeling analyses used by the Preventive Services Task Force to make its recommendation.   

Ongoing dialog and research on this topic are very important in the lives of many women. We'll assess these findings and others in the annual evaluation of our guidelines in March 2010.

The task force, and M. D. Anderson, are united in our emphasis on developing risk-based,  specific breast cancer screening guidelines. We'll continue to seek evidence that benefits women by catching this disease in its earliest stages.

"Doctors need to have more discussion about the risks and limitations of breast cancer screening with patients so they can participate in decision-making," Bevers says. "There have been huge successes in teaching American women about the benefits of screening mammography, but women have not been educated about the limitations of screening -- which is why many women believe that there is no harm in screening and if one test is good, two tests are better and more frequent testing with both is the best."

Read more about this discussion on twitter hashtag - #mammogram40

Transcript from Houston Chronicle MedBlog Live Chat Event


I was shocked to see the recommendation moving across the TV screen last evening. It is wonderful for you to clarify your position. Why was this decision reached with all the evidence that is available for the benefits of early detection? Diane

My breast cancer was diagnosed at stage 2a on my initial visit to MDA, despite annual exams elsewhere. If I had followed the recommendations now in the news it would have been more advanced. As a volunteer I have heard similar stories as well as talked with women who found their own lump, not noticed by the md. MDA's guidelines are the best hope for women. Survivor 2000.

I agree with having a mammogram after 40 rather then after 50. I also think self breast exams are a good ides.

I had a radical mastectomy when I was 42. If I had been diagnosed at age 50, I would not be writing this today. That was a long time ago, before mammogram, what they had was new and called a xerogram and my doctor wanted to use that "new" technology, I'm glad he was aware of the that technology.

I am horrified with these new recommendations. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at 28 after finding a lump during a Breast Self Exam and if it hadn't been for my doctors recently having a meeting and all agreeing to be more proactive in investigating breast abnormalities in their younger women patients I may not be here today! I don't understand how cutting in the area of screening and prevention could be beneficial to anyone. I really feel like early detection saves lives and now with these new recommendations I am sure we will see and increase in breast cancer deaths due to detecting disease at later stages. This is not only disturbing news to me personaly but I am also an Oncology Nurse and I often treat patients under 40 with breast cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime! Furthermore breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 20-59! What are we thinking!

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