Government Says: Mammograms At Age 50

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

A government task force released it recommendation on Monday that women should start getting screened for breast cancer at the age of 50.

The American Cancer Society's guidelines have been stringent for years, that women should start getting mammograms at the age of 40. They also recommend women to conduct self breast exams; but the task force also thinks that is unnecessary.

The task force concluded that it is more harmful for women to undergo mammograms earlier and more often. Plus there is greater risk for developing breast cancer as a woman ages so to start checking at 50 is a good time frame. Many local doctors and cancer organizations disagree.

Executive director of the mid-Michigan Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation Chris Pearson said this government recommendation is scary.

"My biggest concern is that women will think that they don't need to get mammograms," said Pearson. "To think that people are out there saying you don't need this or we recommend that you don't - I'm afraid for them."

The American Cancer Society released a statement saying that based on the government's research, the task force " is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them."

Both the Komen foundation and the Cancer Society still believe in early detection and said that women need to continue to be checked at age 40.

The government released a recommendation, not a mandate. Women still have the option to get screened at 40 years old. However, if insurance companies are looking to cut costs, it's not that unbelievable that they would look to these recommendations for a reason.

"Evidence-based medicine is wonderful but maybe not so much for the patient as it is for the insurance company," said Pearson.

Dr. David Anderson with the Breast Center in Lansing said more women will likely be reluctant to go for a screening and based on his research that is a very uncomforting thought.

"I looked at the first 50 women that had a diagnosis of breast cancer here and 13 of the 50 had a diagnosis before the age of 50," said Anderson.

Anderson said his center has no plans to discontinue mammograms for women under the age of 50.

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