In dramatic fashion, the American Cancer Society released new guidelines for breast cancer screening after growing concern that the benefits of mammograms may have been inflated causing over diagnosis and false positives from tests. Among the most important changes to the ACS’s breast cancer screening guidelines is change in the recommended age at which women begin testing. The ACS which previously recommended screening begin at age 40, now recommends annual screening begin at age 45. In addition, the ACS suggests transitioning to bi-annual screening at age 55.
Former president of the ACS and member of the breast cancer guideline panel, Richard Wender, stated regarding the change, “Over the past couple years, there has been so much confusion that some women and some clinicians have really lost confidence in mammography.” As concerns around the negative effects of over exposure to radiation from mammograms and other diagnostic imaging tests continue to grow, Wender and the ACS still highlight mammography as the most important prevention method for reducing the chance of dying of breast cancer. However, now the organization’s new guidelines hope to inspire a more “personalized and tailored approach”.
One of the largest concerns voiced by those who oppose the new guidelines is the fear that many insurance providers will cease coverage for breast cancer screenings. As professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, Daniel Kopans, pointed out in an interview with The Washington Post, “If the US Preventative Services Task Force gives screening women ages 40 to 49 a “C” rating, then mammograms will not be covered for this age group.” A “C” rating represents the panel’s recommendation that practitioners exclusively provide breast screening services to selected patients based on individual circumstances. (Read more from the interview here)
With over 30,000 women aged 40-49 diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each year, pushback against the ACS’ new guidelines from experts, patients, and physicians does not come as much of a surprise. Additionally, with the announcement coming in mid-October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the new guidelines seemed counterproductive to those championing women to perform screenings. How much do ACOG, ACS and USPSTF recommendations effect your screening practices? Do you agree with the ACS’s most recent guidelines?