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Pressure is increasing on the Obama administration to reverse the U.S. Taskforce Guidelines on annual mammogram screenings that was released a few months ago. Bravo!
The guidelines released from the U.S. Taskforce stated that most women do not need to start annual screenings until the age of 50, can be done every other year, and end at the age of 74. As a breast surgeon taking care of women of all ages with benign and cancerous disease, I found the recommendations appalling. Many women under the age of 50, my sister included, were diagnosed with breast cancer on a screening mammogram. The cancerous mass is frequently not found by palpation (touch) until it is large enough which means being diagnosed at a later stage and having to undergo much more aggessive therapy. As my sister says about her breast cancer, if she had waited until 50 to start her screening, she "would be dead by now!" Sobering, right?
So the latest guidelines to be released come from the American College of Radiology based on scientific studies. They support the guidelines of the American Cancer Society and American Society of Breast Surgeons. They even take it one step further with recommendations about MRI and ultrasound screening.
--Women with an average risk should start yearly screening at age 40. --Women who are BRCA positive should start annual mammogram and MRI screening between 25-30 years of age. --Women who are high risk (lifetime risk is >20%) due to a family history should start 10 years before the age of the youngest primary relative. --Women with a personal history of breast cancer should also consider MRI or ultrasound screening along with yearly mammograms. --Finally, women with dense breast tissue should have an ultrasound along with their yearly mammogram.
To be sure that you are getting the appropriate screening, speak with your doctor. Please remember that mammograms do save lives and are crucial in diagnosing breast cancer early so that the disease is still curable.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age.