Posted: November 4, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY


If you know nothing else about cancer, you have probably heard that early detection is best. The new American Cancer Society recommendations, however, may seem a bit confusing in this regard.

Last month, the American Cancer Society updated its recommendations for mammograms including guidelines for undergoing the test later in life and less frequently than previously recommended.

The organization has announced that clinical breast exams for breast cancer screening in average-risk women of any age actually doesn’t appear to save lives. The American Cancer Society, however, does recommend that women with an average risk of breast cancer start getting mammograms yearly at the age of 45 and women 55 and older should continue getting mammograms once every other year.  It’s important to note that these recommendations are for women with no personal history of cancer or risk factors based on medical problems or genetic mutations.

For some, this may seem a bit shocking since the American Cancer Society has always taken an aggressive approach toward screening.

There are many reasons for the recent change in recommendation but one is that women in their 40s often have dense tissue in their breasts and many times the screening leads to a false positive. Aside from the unnecessary medical treatment, the emotional stress of falsely telling a woman she has cancer can be hard to cope with. Additionally, it’s been reported that roughly 85% of women in their 40s and 50s die of breast cancer, whether or not they have had a mammogram.

Sadly, many women put false hope in the importance of mammograms when in fact, the exam only decreases the risk from breast cancer anywhere from 15 to 40%.

Despite recommendations, the most important thing is for you to do what you feel is right for your body. It’s likely that not all primary care physicians will agree with or change their practices to match the new American Cancer Society guidelines. Essentially, it’s a personal decision and if you would like to start screening before the age of 45, that’s your decision to make. Speaking with your physician about your potential risk factors can help you decide the best course of action.