An expert panel’s new recommendation has advised that women should start having regular breast screening at age 40. This is a departure from the hitherto recommended age of 50.
This is contained in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force new draft guidelines on breast cancer prevention that has just been released.
This is a draft recommendation — in other words, it’s not final yet — but it’s expected to become official in a few months.
According to the new draft guidelines, women should be screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40 to lower their risk of dying from the disease.
“While the Task Force has consistently recognized the life-saving value of mammography, we previously recommended that women in their 40s make an individual decision about when to start screening based on their health history and preferences.
“In this new recommendation, the Task Force now recommends that all women get screened starting at age 40. This change could result in 19% more lives being saved,” a statement from the Task Force says.
But the screening recommendations are different from those of other organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society — which are also different from each other.
Physicians say it’s important to note that the screening recommendations revert to what the Task Force used to recommend around mammograms.
There are concerns that breast cancer diagnoses have increased in US, especially in women under 50 and younger Black women, who are dying from breast cancer at nearly double the rate of white women of the same age.
“New and more inclusive science about breast cancer in people younger than 50 has enabled us to expand our prior recommendation and encourage all women to get screened in their 40s.
“We have long known that screening for breast cancer saves lives, and the science now supports all women getting screened, every other year, starting at age 40,” the Task Force wrote on its website.
Dr. Christine Edmonds, an assistant professor of radiology at the Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania, states: “There is overwhelming evidence that, for women at average lifetime risk of breast cancer, beginning screening at age 40 saves the most lives, as compared to beginning at age 45 or 50.
“In addition, the most life-years are lost to breast cancer among women diagnosed in their 40s as compared to women diagnosed in any other decade of life.”
Edmonds says that when you factor that in with knowing there is “minimal risk” to screening women in their 40s, “it is with a resounding ‘yes’ that we recommend women begin screening no later than age 40.”
Dr. Melissa D. Fana, director of women’s health for Suffolk County at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, agrees that the new recommendations are a “very important step in protecting women,” adding, “We know mammography saves lives.”
But many doctors say they’ve been recommending that women get screened for breast cancer starting at age 40, regardless of what the Task Force said in the past. “That has been our practice despite the earlier guidelines,” Dr. Parvin Peddi, a medical oncologist and director of breast medical oncology for the Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, says. “There are still many patients diagnosed prior to 50.”
How often should people be screened who are average risk vs. higher risk?
The Task Force guidelines say that all women should start regular mammograms at age 40, but women who are considered high risk may need to start screening even earlier.
“Women at higher risk of breast cancer should also be screened annually,” Edmonds says. “The age of screening onset depends on their specific risk factors and level of risk and should be determined by a breast cancer specialist.
“Those who are at greater than or equal to 20% lifetime risk of breast cancer should be screened with annual breast MRI.”
Factors such as your family and personal history can weigh into your risk for breast cancer, experts warn.
Source: Yahoo Life