Doctors should offer all women in their 40s the chance to get annual screenings for breast cancer, according to new guidelines from an organization of women's health professionals.
The recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) will add to the debate over when screening should start, and how often it should be done, based on the chances of catching an early cancer and the risks inherent in any screening.
"We believe it is our job to help women make the best health decision for themselves," said Dr. Jennifer Griffin of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, one of the authors of the new recommendations.
"We believe that many women will choose to have a screening mammogram every year, (and) of course there are women that will choose not to", according to Reuters.
The guidelines conflict with those issued in late 2009 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommended screening mammograms only every other year beginning at age 50 because they can result in many false positive results, prompting unnecessary biopsies and additional tests.
"I think the main point we considered was that about 40,000 women every year in their 40s are diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 20 percent of them will die from it," said Griffin, an assistant professor of OB/GYN at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "Screening mammograms reduce the risk of dying by 15 percent" in this population, says U.S. News & World Report.
The association of gynecologists, however, does not make a distinction between 40- and 50-year-olds, which some experts applauded. "The threshold of age 50 is totally arbitrary,'' said Dr. Daniel Kopans, a Massachusetts General Hospital radiologist who has published numerous research papers on mammography. "The randomized clinical trials all start at age 40, not 50, and show a mortality benefit of at least 15 percent and as high as 30 percent', reports Boston Globe.
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