CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – The breast cancer experts at Summit Health are concerned new mammogram guidelines released from the American Cancer Society (ACS) last week may discourage women who are unfamiliar with their personal risk factors for developing breast cancer from getting early preventative screenings.
The ACS announced last Tuesday women of average risk for breast cancer should start getting annual screening mammograms at age 45 instead of 40. The new guidelines also suggest women get the screening every other year starting at age 55.
However, the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) continue to recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
Dr. Edward Lampton, a breast imaging specialist at Chambersburg Hospital’s Rhonda Brake Shreiner Women’s Center, says he agrees with the ACR and SBI. He explained getting mammograms earlier is important because most women don’t know what their risk is for developing breast cancer.
“There is a 35 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths and thousands of lives saved each year with annual mammograms beginning at age 40. We believe there should be no change in the currently accepted guidelines,” he said.
15 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer by Summit Health in 2014 were less than 45 years old.
According to Summit Breast Care Services surgeon Dr.Lori Eakin it is crucial that women discuss their risk factors with their physicians to determine the best age to start getting mammograms.
“In some cases, women need to start the screenings earlier than the guidelines suggest. That is a determination that needs to be made by a medical professional who has evaluated that woman’s personal risk factors,” explained Dr. Eakin. “It can be confusing, but all women need to remember getting a mammogram can find cancers earlier than would be found by just Breast Self Exam. This can possibly lead to less treatment and better survival.”
Dr. Eakin said there are many risk factors linked to breast cancer. The two most common are being a woman and getting older. Others include being overweight, lack of exercise, alcohol intake, age of giving birth, and use of postmenopausal combination Hormone Replacement Therapy. While family history is certainly a risk factor, 85% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history, so it is critical that women without a family history speak with their physicians to determine their risk.
Medical research also indicates a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer increases as she ages. Experts at Summit Health are also urging women 55 and older not to automatically taper off their screenings to every other year, but again, to discuss their personal risk factors with their physician, and to determine the best care plan.
Summit Health offers several convenient locations and times to get an annual mammogram. For more information on mammograms and breast health, please click here.